Bicycles are among the most popular requests from children for Christmas, but because of cost the most difficult to fulfill.
This year, however, at least some of those wishes will be granted because of the work of two Santa Rosa firemen who call themselves the Bike Elves, a Santa Rosa bike shop and the efforts of the Volunteer Center's toys program.
"There are a lot of bike requests and they are that, wishes, and wishes are not always fulfilled," said Marty Wait, who coordinates the center's Secret Santa program. "Still, we are incredibly blessed in Sonoma County to have so many people who like bicycles and have the resources to share a bike with a child."
Wait said that through donations and the various programs, they hope to be able to provide 170 new bicycles this year, which is still short of the number asked for.
"We probably get well over 400 requests for bikes. We have 15,000 requests that we are juggling right now," Wait said. Bikes are "a small percentage, but everyone wants a bike."
Santa Rosa firefighters Brian Staby and Scott Bristow, who took the Bike Elves title and program eight years ago, were able to get a $5,000 grant from the firefighters' union to purchase new bikes.
"It is nice to see kids on bikes," Staby said. "That is our goal, to get as many kids on bikes as possible."
They used that money to match a $5,000 grant that the Bike Peddler in Santa Rosa received from one of its vendors, Specialized Bicycle Components in Morgan Hill.
Together, the $10,000 is enough to buy 40 new Specialized bikes and helmets, using the Bike Peddlers wholesale discount, said store co-owner Jim Keene.
Keene's staff is assembling those bikes now in their spare time and after hours and there will probably be some night closer to Christmas when a volunteer bike assembly night will be held.
Donations can also be made to the Bike Elves account at the store to purchase even more bikes, Keene said.
The Specialized bikes will be given out through the Volunteer Center's Secret Santa program, along with another 15 bikes that were donated by the Salvation Army.
Wait said she hopes that individual donations to the Secret Santa program will provide another 100 more.
Community Bikes, a non-profit that recycles old donated bikes, will be giving some children's bikes to the traditional posada that the Committee for Immigrants Rights is putting on in mid December.
Attila Nagy said that last year, Community Bikes gave them 15 bikes, which their volunteers then repaired and made street-ready.
(You can reach Staff Writer Bob Norberg at 521-5206 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)