A bicycle for Christmas — Toys for Tots, Al's Bike Drive make it happen
Hundreds of children across the Alle-Kiski Valley will be getting bicycles for Christmas, thanks to one man's charity that marked its 10th anniversary in a big way.
Al Todd, a financial planner from Hampton, started Al's Bike Drive 10 years ago. In its first year, it gave 31 bicycles to Toys for Tots.
“A bike to me was huge when I was growing up,” Todd said. “That's why I wanted to do it. I rode my bike a lot when I grew up. This is something I want to be sure every kid gets a chance to do.”
Helped by family, friends and co-workers, the number of bikes donated increased each year. Last year, there were 623.
For the 10th anniversary this year, they shot for “something big,” he said — 1,000 bikes.
The goal wasn't only met, it was exceeded — 1,093 bikes, from tricycles up to 26-inch bikes for bigger boys and girls.
They did it all by soliciting donations. The bikes were bought from the Wal-Mart in Richland Township.
“I'm a simple guy that has a lot of great and generous friends,” Todd said Thursday.
“I was worried I'd find a limit to their generosity this year,” he said.
“I'm glad to report we haven't found it yet.”
On Thursday, members of the Allegheny Valley Marine Corps League Detachment 827 in Springdale picked up their bikes, most of which were taken to Weleski Transfer in East Deer to be stored until they can be given to families over the next two weeks.
The group received 550 of the bikes — up from 300 last year, Toys for Tots coordinator Kevin Geppert said.
The rest went to Toys for Tots in Beaver County.
“We could never handle all the bikes he offered us,” Geppert said.
Because Toys for Tots can buy toys only worth up to $30, bikes would always be out of reach.
“That's a particular item Marines don't get enough of, and they can't buy them because of the limits on purchases,” Todd said. “We fill in a hole that's needed.”
Geppert said they would not be able to give bikes without Todd's help.
“I'd be lucky if I got five bicycles donated from the general public,” he said.
The organization has about 700 families signed up for toys, said Emil Zilka of Frazer, the detachment's commandant. That equates to about 2,100 children in northeastern Allegheny County, western and northwestern Westmoreland County and all of Armstrong County.
Toy distribution will start Dec. 14.
Families that have already signed up have been told when to come to Springdale to get their toys.
One final, last-minute sign-up will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. Dec. 20 at the detachment's building at 838 Pittsburgh St. in Springdale. That's also the last date for distributions.
As for Todd, he's not sure how they'll top this year.
“We'll wait and see what God provides to us,” he said. “All I know is every year it does manage to work out.”
Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BCRittmeyer.