To assert the Knights of Pythias fraternal organization felt like it was pedaling headlong into a hurricane with this year’s Bikes for Boys and Girls program would be painfully understated.
First, last year’s Hurricane Nate wiped out the annual Florida Scallop and Music Festival, resulting in a dramatically scaled-back fest this year.
That loss undermined the Knights’ fundraising and awareness campaigns, with the Scallop Festival serving each year as a kickoff for a fundraising raffle which also brought attention to the program.
And, of course, the second whopper was served up in October by Hurricane Michael, robbing the program of precious time and resources while simultaneously expanding the need for the program.
To top it all off, there have been many generous donors to children this Christmas, including the annual Gulf County Sheriff’s Office Toy Drive, that have crowded the holiday philanthropy market.
But, as Clarence Monette of the Knights of Pythias noted this week, the community has always been generous with the program and this year that generosity spread its wings across the country, or least as far as Kansas City.
For example, the day after a newspaper article appeared in late October about the program’s 2018 launch, a woman strolled into the newspaper’s office with a new bike to donate.
The giving continued right through the Christmas on the Coast parade two weeks ago.
“One lady just walked up to me at the parade and gave me a donation,” Monette said. “Really, it has gone really good this year.
“We’ve had a lot of donations from local people and a lot of from other places.”
From Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and, yes, Kansas City, among other spots on the map, donations of dollars, and sometimes bikes, arrived.
All that giving will result in more than 140 children having a bike under their Christmas tree that might otherwise not have one without the Bikes for Boys and Girls program.
“People were so generous, it is amazing,” Monette said. “It is so heartwarming.
“But I am not surprised. People in this community have always been so generous to our program.”
Working with guidance offices in both elementary schools, the Knights identify those children in need of some wheeled-wonder that would otherwise be out of reach for their household resources.
The paperwork has already been sent home for a signature from parents or guardians.
This week the Knights got to work putting all those bikes together, readying them for the kids and Christmas scenes around the county.
Distribution will be Saturday, in Port St. Joe City Commons and Lake Alice Park in Wewahitchka.