Waking up on Christmas morning to a new bicycle can be a fond memory for any child. However, some children have never owned, let alone ridden one before.
One local organization wanted to change that.
The nonprofit organization Bikes for Angels turns 10 years old this year, and Rick and Dee Curlee of Joshua still can’t believe it.
The year before creating Bikes for Angels, Rick Curlee was working as a teacher for Mansfield ISD when his principal asked if he could help deliver angel tree gifts since he had a pickup. He agreed.
Since they hadn’t picked out an angel yet, they both decided to go to Walmart and buy three different size bikes to give to children in need while they delivered the gifts.
His school adopted five families for the holidays that year. At four of the families, they already had bikes.
“When we got to the fifth family, it was a grandmother raising three grandkids,” he said. “There was one gift each for the kids. To my amazement, the three bikes I purchased were a perfect fit for all three kids in the house. The grandmother cried when I brought the bikes in, and the joy on the kids faces was unbelievable. She hugged my neck and asked me how I knew.”
He said he didn’t know why he and his wife felt compelled to purchase the bikes or how they were the perfect fit for the family, but he knew they needed to share the “joy of giving” with their students during the next holiday season.
“We started Bikes for Angels the following year and the students raised enough money to buy 385 bikes the first year,” he said. “Kids get excited when they get a new bike, but you should see the joy in kids eyes when they are raising money to buy new bikes for needy children.”
Over the past 10 years, the nonprofit has raised funds to buy over 4,478 bicycles.
Dee Curlee said over the years the number of bikes requested by the schools has increased, but they always find a way to fill the need.
“We couldn’t do it without the community, the kids and the schools,” she said.
Rick Curlee said recently a second-grader donated $2 to the nonprofit.
“She opened up her little plastic Barbie purse and searched and searched and found 7 cents to put in with it,” he said. “She looked up at me and said, ‘I knew I had some more to put in.’ All I could do was give her a high five because I was having a little trouble with blurry eyes at the time.”
The year before he retired, a student donated $200 for the nonprofit.
“I knew his family was not well off, so I asked if he was sure this was OK,” he said. “[The student] said, ‘Mr. Curlee, I have a part-time job now and I’ve been saving for this. The first year you did Bikes for Angels, I got a new bike and now I want to buy four kids a new bike.’ I had to take a deep breath before I could speak to him. Then it was still hard to talk. Teaching kids the joy of giving without expecting anything in return is what Bikes for Angels is all about.”
All of Joshua ISD’s elementary schools and Norwood and Taylor elementary schools in Burleson ISD receive the bikes.
Loflin Middle School technology teacher and student council advisor Philip Wade said their school raises money for the nonprofit by holding a dance every year where students buy tickets.
He sees how many bikes were bought this year and multiplies that times 10, and that’s how many kids have been helped over the last decade.
“It’s amazing to think about all of them,” he said.
Every year they raise the money, he said many students remember when they received a bike when they were in elementary school.
Wade and Loflin sixth-grade science teacher Wendy Phillips are both student council advisors who oversee the fundraiser at their school.
“I think it’s amazing how many kids that they serve and the difference they make,” Phillips said.
Rick Curlee said the middle and high schools in Joshua raise quite a bit of funds for the nonprofit every year.
“It is voluntary as to which schools participate in our program,” he said. “The upper grades usually have an event like a dance, etc., to raise funds. Many of the elementary schools set up donation jugs per grade and have a competition between grade levels. It’s left up to each school how they raise funds.”
Bikes for Angels works with Walmart and Academy Sports and Outdoors with bulk bike purchases, Rick Curlee said.
Many local businesses also lend a hand, including Turn Key Utility Construction, Basden Steel Corporation, Woolard’s Custom Jewelers, Mountain Valley Funeral Home, Peacock Transmission Service, Kelley’s Collision Center, Burleson Morning Rotary, MAAD H Ranch, Diesel Dynamics, Pathway Communications, Bryan Zimmerman with DFW Car Shows, local resident Dave Osteen and other private donors.
“It takes a village to do this and we could not pull all this together without help from all these folks,” he said.
After the school requests are filled, they also donate bikes to the Family Crisis Center of Johnson County, Children’s Advocacy Center of Johnson County, Court Appointed Special Advocates, Operation Blessing of Johnson County, Salvation Army of Johnson County, Community Partners of Johnson County’s Rainbow Room and other families in need if funding is available.
For information about Bikes for Angels, visit www.bikesforangels.org.