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Dear Santa: Could the Boise Bicycle Project please make 500 dreams come true this Christmas?

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Boise Bicycle Project
The 2021 Boise Bicycle Project Christmas bike giveaway will be held Saturday, December 18.

It started 15 years ago – a few dozen refugee children came, many of them walking, to the Boise Bicycle Project. But they pedaled home with what likely became their first and best gift in their new home – a bicycle for the holidays.

This year’s BBP Holiday Bicycle Giveaway will make 500 dreams come true.

“So, the kids who are getting these bicycles are coming from one car or no car households, and they’ll use the bike to get to and from school,” said Jimmy Hallyburton, executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project.

“Sometimes, it’s to get groceries for their families, and these bicycles are this incredible tool that also gives people a sense of freedom,” he said.

Hallyburton visited with Morning Edition host George Prentice to talk about the urgent need for bikes, cash donations or volunteer efforts, in anticipation of the big giveaway set for Saturday, Dec. 18.

“It really is a universal language like art, like music, like food.”
Jimmy Hallyburton

Read the full transcript below:

GEORGE PRENTICE: It is Morning Edition on Boise State Public Radio News good morning. I'm George Prentice. Well, if you are in search of some way to rekindle a holiday spirit, you may find it in a piece of music or maybe stringing up some lights. But one of Boise's best holiday traditions has to be the Boise Bicycle Project's Holiday Kids Bike Giveaway. Jimmy Hallyburton is here - Boise city councilman and executive director of the Boise Bicycle Project. Councilman, this is one of those rare opportunities. If I may ask to call you, Jimmy.

JIMMY HALLYBURTON: Actually, I would prefer that you call me Jimmy. So, George, yeah, this is my official Boise Bicycle Project hat that I'll be wearing today, and I appreciate the really kind introduction. Certainly, riding bicycles and getting a bicycle for Christmas is a tradition for so many, and we're hoping that we can make that car a lot more in our community. So yeah, just let's stick with Jimmy on this one.

PRENTICE: I was stunned to read that this is the 15th year.

HALLYBURTON: Yeah, the 15th one… hard for me to believe as well. I remember our very first one in two thousand seven. I think we donated about sixty three bicycles to some families who had just arrived as refugees. That was really our first one and actually my first introduction to our incredible refugee community. And then it's grown every single year since. And now we're going to be having over five hundred kids come down here in just a couple of weeks on December 18.

PRENTICE: Well, let's talk about that in a second. Up top, let's talk about what you need and what we can do to help as you approach the 18th.

HALLYBURTON: Well, there's definitely something that everybody can do in. The first thing is to start spreading the word that we need gently used bicycles donated to the Boise bicycle project. So there's some specific sizes 16 inches. 24, 26 inch bikes. We've got a lot of preschool kids and a lot of younger tweens that are tall enough to be riding adult bikes that we need this year. But really, any gently used bicycle that you can bring down will be extremely helpful. We've got a huge waiting list for kids who didn't register for the giveaway but have been contacting us since. And so the more bikes that we get down in any size, the more that we'll be able to get out there. And there's a lot of people who may not have one sitting around in their garage and they may be tempted to go and buy one. And what we encourage those folks to do is actually, if they donate to the Boise bicycle project or adopt one of the bicycles that we have online that can cover the cost of tires, tubes, grips, pedals for all the bicycles that will get donated because it costs us about 30 to 50 dollars to fix up every single bicycle. So even if you don't have a bicycle sitting in your garage, you can still help us cover the cost of fixing up all the ones that will be donated. And you can definitely definitely spread the word to everyone that you know on social media, at your work, at your church, at your school, whatever it is that you do, that we need bicycles before December 18th.

PRENTICE: So this weekend, this particular weekend will probably be very crucial.

HALLYBURTON: Yeah, we're hoping that a lot of those bikes come in on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. This week we're actually partnering with a lot of our local bicycle shops. George's Cycle Learning Center, Recycle and Smokey Joe's are helping us fix bikes because we have a bit of a volunteer shortage still because of COVID. So our volunteers that we do have, we'll be working on stuff. But the bike shops will be as well. So if people can get those down to us by Saturday this weekend, then we can get those to the bike shops, we can get those to our volunteers and we can definitely get them fixed up. Actually, we're fixing about 50 bicycles a day right now, so as soon as people can get them down, we'll get them ready to go. And the bikes are pretty cool too, because the kids, the way that we select them is they refer to us by our nonprofit partners. These are truly the kids who need bicycles the most, and they're really struggling. This year we're hearing from our partners that it's been a hard time, but what the kids do is they draw a picture of their dream bike. They give us their two favorite colors and their height, and then we use those drawings to customize every single bicycle that we give out. So if they've got a dragon on the bicycle like, we're going to figure out a way to get a dragon on the bike if they're asking for a princess bicycle, you know, we're going to do that as well. And so it takes us some time to customize those bikes. So again, the sooner that people can get those bikes to us or this sooner that people can make donations, the sooner we can order more parts to get everything fixed and ready to go.

PRENTICE: Could you talk just a little bit about how a bike transcends just a form of transportation? Indeed, it's a link…it's a universal language of love, and it is probably a gift that these kids will never forget.

HALLYBURTON: It really is a universal language like art, like music, like food. I remember at our very first giveaway when we did have the refugee community come down, and again, I think it was about sixty three kids and it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from, a bicycle really is a symbol of freedom and opportunity, and it's a great way for us to welcome people to the community and a great thing that we can give that provides physical health, mental health, but maybe most importantly, an opportunity to connect to other opportunities to grow and thrive. So the kids who are getting these bicycles are coming from one car or no car households, they're using them to get to and from school to after school. Programs to other nonprofits, sometimes to get groceries for their families, and so these bicycles are this incredible tool that also gives people a sense of freedom when they're riding around on and it doesn't matter who you are, where you're from. Like I said earlier, a bicycle means something, and it's going to be something that can bring a lot of joy this holiday season.

PRENTICE: And, you know, as well as anyone that we have a number of new residents in town who may not be familiar with this amazing tradition and how your heart skips a beat once a year on this particular Saturday.

HALLYBURTON: There's nothing like it. And and not only our bicycle is a universal language. Getting bicycles to kids, I think, is universally agreed upon, so it doesn't matter what your background is or what your views or your policies or philosophies are. Everybody wants a kid to have a bicycle, and they know that the community will be a better place if these kids are out there in writing. And so there really is a way for everybody to help. You can spread the word about these bicycles. You can donate. We are still taking volunteers for the day of the giveaway so people can sign up to volunteer at Boise Bicycle Project. Org And you don't have to be a bike mechanic, although if you are, we'll certainly put you to work. There's there's volunteer shifts for all types of skill levels, and even if you can't make it down there that day and you want to make cookies that we can hand out if you've got extra coats and gloves sitting around, if people go to Boise Bicycle Project dot org, they can see all of their opportunities. But all skills, all contributions are needed, so please, please jump in there and help us figure out a way to make this this holiday season brighter, not only for the kids, but for the families are coming down because the families are a major part of this. We're not doing it for them. We're doing it with them. And if the families can't get the kids down here, if they can't work with us to teach those kids to ride this bicycle safely, it doesn't work. So it's really a community effort that we're all trying to do to get these kids out there riding their bikes.

PRENTICE: Five hundred faces and smiles that you will not soon forget so we can make a donation. At Boisebicycleproject.org to learn about volunteering. And again, where might we be able to donate a bike this weekend?

HALLYBURTON: Yeah, bring them down to the Boise Bicycle Project. But we have people down here seven days a week at this point. So if you get down here and we're not open, knock on the door. I guarantee you that there's somebody here but bring those bikes down. You can write it off on your taxes. Our volunteers will be working round the clock to get these bicycles fixed up and ready to go. You know, if you can clean them off before you get here, great. If not, bring them down and we will make sure that we put these bicycles to use and circle.

PRENTICE: Saturday, December 18th nine to four down on Lusk Street. Jimmy have a wonderful holiday and I'm guessing that truly Christmas arrives a week early on the 18th 15 years, and it sounds as if my gosh, 500 kids sounds like this year is going to be just the best.

HALLYBURTON: We're so excited for it. It's going to be a great day and it really is a community effort. So, George, thank you for helping us spread the word, and thanks for all that you do in promoting a good, healthy local community here.

Find reporter George Prentice on Twitter @georgepren

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