Celebrating its 13th year of making the eyes of Southeast Texas children sparkle, the Reaud Family Foundation hosted its annual Bicycles and Bibles program this past weekend at Ford Arena.
Giving away more than 14,000 bicycles over the past 13 years, the Reaud Family Foundation began its mission of giving gifts by helping children who might not otherwise have experienced a Merry Christmas.
The idea behind the program came from Wayne Reaud, who wanted to give children a message of hope for the future, coupled with a day of fun in the Christmas spirit. Reaud said that he still remembers getting his first bicycle and thinks back to that time as a boy. He said as his life was blessed through the years, he wanted to give back and share that joy with others.
“My family wanted to share the blessings that God has bestowed upon us with others,” he said. “Trying to figure out a way to share those blessings spoke to my heart several years ago. I wanted to give children a new bicycle, to share something special with them from my past. And I wanted to give them a Bible because I believe that is where they will find the fundamental truth and a code to live by. So not only are we able to bring a smile to their faces with the gift of a bicycle, we are also able to give them a small introduction to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Reaud said the idea of giving a children’s Bible – one very similar to the one he read as a child – came through the devotion to God that his mother had as he was growing up.
Gena Reaud, who guided him and his brother Jon in the ways of the Lord and helped them learn to show compassion toward others – set the foundation for the program that gives back to so many children and families in need.
All anyone had to do was look around the arena and see the smiles on not only the faces of the children but on their parents’ faces, as well. For most, the gifts bestowed upon their children by the Reaud Family and others that have joined in over the years made Christmas much grander that it ever could have been.
Since the program first began, it has caught the attention of several of Reaud’s friends who also wanted to share gifts with the children. Bob and Karen Wortham, Teri and Glen Morgan, Suzanne and John Werner, Cindy and Hubert Oxford III, Judy and Larry Tillery, and Robert and Cheryl Bertrand have all come onboard to help share the joy of Christmas with 1,000 youngsters each year.
The children invited to attend are nominated by area churches and charities before being approved by the Reaud Foundation. Each of the 1,000 children who participate in the annual event receives a new bicycle, winter coat, windbreaker, backpack, tennis shoes, stocking cap, football, basketball, soccer ball, a stocking full of candy and most importantly — a children’s Bible.
But this is a celebration like no other. Everyone in attendance — parents, grandparents and siblings — all get to partake in an unlimited supply of Little Caesar’s pizza, corn dogs, soft drinks from the Beaumont Coca-Cola Bottling Co., cotton candy, popcorn, breakfast burritos from Carlito’s Mexican Restaurant, Kaleidoscoops Ice Cream and balloon creatures from Gumdrop the Clown.
More than 400 volunteers helped to make the event a reality as the staff of the Reaud, Morgan and Quinn Law Firm, the Singles Christian Connection from Cathedral in the Pines, the Young Life organization, members of the Apostolic Church of Beaumont, students from area high schools, officers from the Beaumont Police Department, firefighters from the Beaumont Fire Department and workers from Academy Sports and Outdoors took their places helping where they were needed. Local evangelist Craig Larson and the youth group from Power Castle Ministries entertained and enlightened the children with a spiritual puppet show about Jesus. After all, that is really what the program has sought to do from its inception — spread the word of the Lord. The blessings of this Christmas party aren’t limited to just those taking away gifts or enjoying the food. There’s a spiritual message shared each year and, of late, a message of patriotism.
This year, Dr. Larry Holly provided a message of encouragement to the children. As he explained the meaning of prayer, the excited children began to quiet down and he began leading them in a prayer to the Lord. Holly explained that praying is not a social event but something that should be done reverently, with sincerity to God.
The program was then turned to Hubert Oxford III, who led the children in the Pledge of Allegiance but also explained to them the meaning of the pledge and why the U.S. flag is comprised of stars and stripes.
“When we say the pledge of allegiance, we are saluting our country and promising our devotion to the flag and our nation,” Oxford said.
Bishop Curtis Guillory then addressed the children and their families about the importance of Christmas and why the Reaud Family seeks to help so many in the community.“I want to say to each one of you that you are special and you are loved,” Guillory said. “Even if you feel that no one loves you, God loves you, and that is important to remember. No matter how you look or what you have or don’t have, it is important to remember that God loves you. Why? Because God has created you in his image. Look at yourselves, and I hope you will be able to say that I am a child of God and know that God loves you.”
Guillory told the children that God loves them so much that he gave up his son – Jesus – out of love. And that is why we celebrate Christmas.
“The Reaud family realizes they have been blessed and their hearts have been touched by you. So, they want to do something special because they know that many of you, perhaps, will not get any presents at Christmas. So, they have joined without to make this day possible for you.”
One of the elderly women in attendance walked up to Reaud and gave him a hug, telling him “thank you” and extending thanks to the others responsible for the Bicycles and Bibles event. Another watched her two sons, who were overjoyed by the gifts they had received.
“This is really amazing for the children,” said Christie Jenkins, looking at her children. “It is a great way to give back and let all of these kids have a great Christmas. I just want to say thank you. We have a limited income and it makes it really hard for us. I can promise you this — those bikes will get a lot of use from these two.”
Jon Reaud, who serves as the executive director to the Reaud Family Foundation, said if not for his brother’s vision, thousands of children might not have experienced the same joys of Christmas as other children.
“The magnitude of an event like this can only happen when an individual has a vision, reached unconditionally with his heart, to make Christmas better for young people throughout our community,” Jon Read said. “In the case of Bicycles and Bibles, that visionary who had a dream about a day like this is the founder of the Reaud Family Foundation and the creator of this event – Wayne Reaud. But I know he would agree that this day could not happen if it were not for the blessings of the Lord.”