Reprinted with permission. Originally published in the Argus-Press.
VERNON — Santa arrived at the Vernon Township fire station Sunday on a fire truck, its lights blazing and sirens blaring, and gave away 25 shiny, new bicycles to a group of thrilled children.
Parents snapped photos as each child received a bicycle selected just for them, along with a plastic candy cane filled with candy that came straight out of Santa’s red bag.
“I’m excited about getting a new bike because my old bike broke,” said Shalynn DeRosset of Durand, 6, just before her meeting with Santa. “I’ve really missed having a bike.”
The kids took turns sitting on Santa’s knee and telling him what they wanted for Christmas, everything from a boat and a laptop to video games and a hundred bucks. Oh, and a bicycle. They all definitely wanted a bicycle.
The Christmas Bike Giveaway was sponsored by a group of employees from Great Lakes Fusion in Vernon Township, who raised $2,500 to give kids from needy families in Durand, Byron and Corunna a brighter Christmas.
“I’m humbled by my employees helping the community,” said Bryan Marks, owner of Great Lakes Fusion. “We’re kind of a big family, and we wanted to help other families who could use a little help at Christmas.”
Before Santa made his big entrance, the families snacked on doughnuts, cookies, apple cider and other refreshments inside the fire hall, encircled by bicycles of all sizes and colors.
“I find it incredible. To reach out and help out others, especially in a time of need, is a very selfless thing to be doing,” said Jay Rosa, father of Shalynn and her sister, Nevaeh DeRossett, 5. “There needs to be more people like them. We can learn from them.”
The Great Lakes Fusion employees are part of Project Pay it Forward, a volunteer initiative to aid area families. The bikes were purchased at Meijer and Wal-Mart. PPIF members, spouses and other volunteers met at Great Lakes Fusion Dec. 10 to assemble them.
Last month, PPIF members purchased, wrapped and delivered turkey dinners to area families for Thanksgiving.
Funds for both drives were proceeds from a fundraiser golf outing last July. In previous years, all the money was given to the Shane Cantu Scholarship Fund.
However, in view of the abundance of giving to the scholarship fund, Great Lakes Fusion employees decided to use part of the golf outing money to seed a Project Pay it Forward committee. The group’s stated aim is to “strive … to keep the dream alive in Shiawassee County.”
Other PPIF fundraisers are planned, including a casino trip next March, another golf outing July 15 and a “machine rodeo” — contests between people driving trucks, tractors and other vehicles, and a touch-a-truck event for children next spring or summer.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Great Lakes Fusion employee Wally Brooks. “It’s good that we’re able to do this for families.”