POWELL, Tenn. (WATE) — The holidays, in a year with record unemployment numbers and a pandemic that impacted the livelihoods of millions of Americans, is challenging for many.
In East Tennessee, a family in Powell wanted to make a difference for the holidays by giving families, who can’t afford gifts for Christmas, something to celebrate: free bicycles.
“If their kids get a free bicycle, at least they get something. If I can help with that, then I don’t mind doing it,” said Brian Rogers, father to 5-year-old Gemma.
It was Gemma’s idea to start this project, known as Free Bikes By Gemma on Facebook.
It happened a week ago, Christmas was getting close, and Gemma was ready for a “big girl” bicycle. She liked the one she had, it had Care Bears on it, but it was too small. She needed something bigger.
When she asked her Dad, Brian, about a new bicycle he told her it was a privilege she could even have a bike and she realized, not everyone her age gets to ride their own bike.
She wanted to change that. So, they put out a call for donations.
“Brought tears to my eyes a couple of times, really,” said Brian.
Overnight, messages on Facebook came in from East Tennesseans wanting to give away their used or forgotten bicycles to be transformed into a Christmas gift for someone else.
In his garage, Brian works with Gemma and his son, Grayson Kennedy, to refurbish donated bikes. He’s taught them how to use tools and how to take apart and then, put back together, the two-wheeled gifts.
Grayson, Brian said, is learning fast. In a week, he’s clocked 28 seconds from start to finish putting tires on a fixed bike.
“The more bikes we can give away the better. All year long, next Christmas. It’ll be good,” said Brian.
In seven days, Brian said they’ve fixed and donated 23 bicycles all over East Tennessee. In total, they’ve worked on more than 40 bikes, so far. He’s eager to get as many as possible.
The Facebook group Brian started gets messages from all over the area, Athens to Madisonville and beyond. That’s a good sign, if you ask Brian… and Gemma, too.
The goal is to continue working on bicycles from their garage, donating and delivering as many as they can before Christmas. Ultimately, Brian wants to expand Free Bikes By Gemma to a warehouse, where he hopes someday, they can work as a family and give out more bicycles.
More information on how to donate a bicycle or contact to receive one can be found online.
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