Berlin Bike Giveaway Program Enters 4th Year

BERLIN – Twenty-five children who might otherwise not get any Christmas presents will receive new bikes this holiday season, as Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale’s bike giveaway program continues.

Now in its fourth year, Cardinale’s Christmas bike giveaway will bestow new bicycles and bicycle helmets on children nominated by Buckingham Elementary School (BES), Berlin Intermediate School (BIS) and Diakonia, a local homeless shelter.

Although there have been a few setbacks, Cardinale is confident that the program will continue and all 25 bikes will be given away.

“Funding has been a little short this year, but I feel very secure we’ll be able to give as many bikes as last year,” Cardinale said this week. “We’re about $400 to $500 away from the money I need to give bikes.”

Financial support has come in from diverse sources, like local businesses, financial institutions and citizens, the mayor said. Individuals have come up to Cardinale on the street and told him they want to buy a bike for the kids. All bikes are purchased through donations, not taxpayer funds.

Children will be nominated to receive a bike by teachers at BES and BIS and the staff at Diakonia. Once those names and the size of bike for each child are submitted, Cardinale will go to Wal-Mart and pick out the bicycles. The store will have the bikes assembled and ready to go for the giveaway before Christmas.

The bikes and accompanying helmets will be given to the selected children on Saturday morning, Dec. 22, at the Berlin Lions Club.

Cardinale said this week that the bike program reminds him of the Empty Stocking program of his childhood, where underprivileged children were given a gift by a local organization and a stocking filled with fruit. Down at the bottom of that stocking were 20 shiny pennies, he said. “I’ve never forgotten that,” Cardinale said.

The mayor’s bicycle giveaway started four years ago when Cardinale was first elected. He and Worcester County Commissioner Bud Church each purchased a bike to give away in a free raffle among 30 deserving children.

Then local businessman Bob Douglas stepped in to provide bikes for all the kids so none would be disappointed, inaugurating a larger giveaway.

For some children, that bicycle is the only Christmas gift they will get.

“It’s the best program I’ve ever started,” said Cardinale of the give away. “You should see the look on their faces.”