It seemed to many gathered at Ford Arena on Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, that Bicycles and Bibles, an annual event, might just have been a little extra special this year. For some reason the spirit of the crowd gathered inside the big arena seemed to radiate a need to be together, to be whole, to be happy, and to understand the wonder of being blessed during this Christmas Season. Kids often said, “Thank you,” to passing strangers, and one could sense they meant it deeply. Young people were not concentrating on themselves but on others, and tireless volunteers worked through the entire day seeing that the event went off without a hitch. Hundreds of fire department and police personnel were on hand to make certain the event was safe and secure for every guest in attendance.
Reaud Family Foundation Executive Director Jon Reaud explained that what was seen on Saturday was only the culmination of an entire year’s worth of hard work by many faithful community volunteers, public servants, business owners, church staff members, and those who simply wanted to be a part of something exciting, helpful, motivating and hopeful. Some had been working for three days and nights getting the more than 1,000 bicycles purchased from Academy Sports and Outdoors put together and on display side by side. Others had prepared food to tempt any palette and yet others were staffing the many tables and booths set up to distribute wonderful Christmas gifts to children who might not have had any otherwise.
Bicycles and Bibles is the brainchild of local attorney Wayne Reaud, who along with his brother, Jon, and other members of his family, set out to make this huge day of giving something every child who attended would always remember. Reaud shared that he well remembered the day he received his first bicycle and how proud he was of the new gift. He treasured it and he said that as he meditated on the goodness of the Lord to him and his family, the thought came to him to perhaps share bicycles with boys and girls all across the area. The plan was born and other additions were soon included. One of Dana Reaud’s favorite gifts is that of a brand new children’s Bible for each guest published by David C. Cook Publishing Company. Dana enjoyed handing each child a Bible, sharing briefly what it is and how it can help them in their young lives. She was often seen pointing to a particular verse or quoting a passage that had become important in her life.
Wayne Reaud often mentions his own mom, Gena Reaud, who he credits with helping to guide him and his brother in the ways of the Lord. “She helped teach us compassion for others,” he said. “Her teaching set the foundation from which this program sprang.” Wayne added, “I believe that if we can teach a child that the fundamentals needed for life are found in the Word of God, he or she can formulate a code to live by each and every day.”
But this December day was about Christmas and fun, and it was filled with surprises and good gifts. Jon Reaud showed that every gift lining the huge display tables around the interior of Ford Arena in Beaumont was nothing less than first class. “There is nothing second class here today,” he told the crowd to loud applause. “Everything you are receiving, you can be proud of, I promise.” Not only did the kids each receive the new bike, the Bible, and wonderful food for the day, but they were also given basketballs, soccer balls, footballs, candy-filled stockings, a windbreaker suit, a new pair of Converse tennis shoes, a London Fog jacket, a sweat suit, bike helmet forsafety, hats, a beautiful teddy bear complete with a Bible verse, a new backpack for school, T-shirts, a hoodie, and several other gifts. Each guest left with a big bag filled to the top. Some had to have help getting the bag to their vehicles along with the shiny new bike.
Good friends join the Reauds in this venture every year, and many have been involved for several years. Tables were staffed by local attorneys and their families, business owners, pastors, staff members, police officers, firefighters, emergency service personnel, football players, and so many more. The entire Lamar University ladies basketball team and their coach were on hand to help. Members of several youth groups, including Legacy Christian Academy and Christian Fellowship Worship Center, the Singles Christian Connection, Cathedral in the Pines, the Apostolic Church of Beaumont, high school students and entire families of volunteers worked tirelessly to see that every guest felt special and loved.
Members of the staff of the Reaud, Morgan & Quinn Law Firm were on hand to help where needed. Some, such as longtime volunteers Glen and Teri Morgan, had their own booths for distribution, doling out Christmas cheer along with lovely gifts to each child.
Jon Reaud praised the Morgans for their dedication to the event, and also called attention to longtime volunteers in an unrelated Morgan family - Bob Morgan and his entire clan were handing out gifts, helping to deliver bikes to waiting cars and trucks, and serving food.
“We couldn’t do this event without people like Bob Morgan who are willing to give so much,” Jon Reaud said.
More than 450 volunteers serve annually. The largest group ever assembled made this 14th year of Bicycles and Bibles a resounding success.
Clowns “Happy” and “Cutie Pie” were on hand delighting children with their balloon tricks and stopping to pose for photographs. “Happy,” who hails from China, has been making children and adults laugh for some 19 years, and she said she wouldn’t miss this event for anything in the world. “It is just a wonderful day for everyone,” she said, smiling brightly through her colorful makeup. “I love what I do, and I will keep on doing it for as long as I can.”
The entire John Werner family was busy handing out soccer balls, and if you happened to catch the local attorney taking a short break, you might even caught him demonstrating his own soccer playing skills. His daughter, Katherine, seemed to enjoy working with her dad while her mom, Suzanne, and other family members handled the other side of the building.
Local business owner Larry Tillery and wife Judy of Daylight Motors and attorney Hubert Oxford III and wife, Cindy, were having as much fun as the children upon whom they were piling gifts. Cotton Cargo owner Robert Bertrand was busy running about handling various chores as well as distributing monogrammed stocking hats for cooler days and nights. His wife, Cheryl, and many of his staff members helped him.
The younger guests enjoyed a puppet show presented by Power Castle Ministries, and everyone bragged on the various foods that were offered. Cotton candy and popcorn were big hits, but the corn dogs and hot pizza were not far behind in popularity. Jon Reaud said, “I know it sounds like a broken record, but we could not do what we do without the contributions of these amazing vendors. The pizzas alone would cost a small fortune.” The pizza was served by Little Caesar’s Pizza and came piping hot and delicious. Kaleidoscopes Ice Cream was on hand and was a favorite stop not only for kids, but for parents and grandparents as well. The Beaumont Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Carlito’s Mexican Restaurant added to the festivities.
Area churches, charities and teachers nominated the children who are chosen to attend before they are vetted by the Reaud Family Foundation. Nothing is happenstance. Parents and children happily clutched their certificates in hand alerting each that they had been chosen to participate and receive the goodies.
When the program became a bit serious, the children behaved well and listened to the instructions given to them from the podium. The Fire House Band entertained the audience during the time the food was served, and then Dr. Larry Holly welcomed the crowd and led attendees in prayer. Boy Scout Troop No. 85 from St. Anne’s led in the pledge of allegiance to the flag, and then the leader asked for a moment of silence from everyone to honor the victims of the Connecticut school shooting that took place only the Friday before. Tears could be seen rolling down the faces of many of the parents who reached to hold their little ones tighter.
John Adolph, senior pastor of Antioch Baptist Church, was the keynote speaker for this year’s Bicycles and Bibles, and he was clearly moved by the crowd that awaited his message. He came prepared with helpers to teach his message, and many will not forget it anytime soon. Pastor Adolph told the crowd that he needed their help to bring the message, and little ears took note, and little eyes did not move from his face as he spoke. He spoke of Christmas and what it truly means, and as he described the event, he had children from his church come on stage to demonstrate his words with a letter of the alphabet. As the message continued, the word “Christ” was spelled out with both the letter and an example of the truth he was teaching. “‘C’ is for the Christ child,” boomed his big voice. “‘H’ is for holy, for He is holy. ‘R’ is for redeemed, and ‘I’ is for Israel; ‘S’ is for salvation.” He ended his message with “T” for the treasure we received on that long ago Christmas morn. The pastor said that some of the treasures we enjoy are hope, love, peace and joy, and that they are especially rich at this time of the year.
Pastor Adolph closed his message by asking every person in the giant room to close his or her eyes and to listen quietly. He then explained God’s simple plan of salvation and asked all those who would like to ask Christ to come into their hearts and lives to please raise their hands, and he assured them he would pray for them earnestly.
The pastor then addressed the Reaud family and friends by saying, “This community owes you a debt of gratitude. We are indeed grateful that God has touched your hearts to help spread His love and cheer at this special time of the year. Thank you for what you have given to others. May you ever be blessed. Merry Christmas to you.”
And then the numbers were called as children orderly formed lines to begin receiving their long-awaited gifts. “Merry Christmas” and “thank you” could be heard all around and many hugs and kisses sealed the day as happy kids of all ages (and their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, guardians and pastors) helped them with their bikes to waiting vehicles.
Kevin King contributed to this article.
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