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.