Help give the gift of wheels for some needy children this Christmas.

Help give the gift of wheels for some needy children this Christmas.

The R.A. Driesbach Lodge 77 Knights of Pythias spark this year’s Bikes for Boys and Girls program this weekend, selling raffle tickets at a booth during the Florida Scallop and Music Festival.

The proceeds from the raffle, which will continue until the Dec. 16 drawing, go to support the Bikes for Boys and Girls program which each year provides bicycles to children of need identified through the school system.

And, my, how that program has grown in the six years since the Pythians, an entirely volunteer organization, assumed the reins.

That first year, the Knights gave away 99 bicycles and, in some case, tricycles.

Last year that number had risen to 186; the target this year is 200.

“There is a need for the bikes, from the kids and the parents,” said Clarence Monette, Chancellor of Lodge 77.

While some of the bikes are like-new donations refurbished by Salvage Santa in Bay County, the vast majority given away each year are purchased by the Pythians.

The bikes are given away during events in Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka the week prior to Christmas, to ensure the wheels are child-ready Dec. 25.

Again this year, the big prize in the raffle is a 50-inch LED HD Westinghouse television.

The second prize is a four-hour charter fishing trip.

There will be additional drawings to give away Bass Pro fishing gear, a $50 gift card from the Wewahitchka IGA, a $100 gift card from the Piggly Wiggly in Port St. Joe, a $50 gift card from the Wewahitchka Dollar General and a $50 gift certificate from Ramsey’s Printing.

Tickets are $5 apiece and, beyond the Scallop and Music Festival, can be purchased from any member of the Knights of Pythias or by calling Monette at 899-1479.

You do not have to be present during the Dec. 16 drawing to win any of the prizes.

The real prize, Monette might say, is really on the faces of those kids as they sit on their new wheels.

“We do it for the enjoyment of it,” Monette said. “We have a good time doing it.

“And the need just keeps growing.”