Bicycles and Bibles 2015

Bicycles and Bibles 2015

Bikes and Bibles 2015 behind the scenes: Around 15 volunteers check in more than a thousand kids and family members

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The Reaud Family Foundation shined a little light into the lives of more than a thousand children this Christmas at its Bicycles and Bibles event Saturday, Dec. 19.

The event, which began at the Beaumont Civic Center in 1998 — when around 125 bikes were initially distributed — has grown over the years. Now in its 17th year and held at the Ford Exhibit Hall, Bicycles and Bibles hands out around 1,000 bicycles annually to area children. The event has gifted around 25,000 bikes since its inception.

“For a lot of these kids, this is their Christmas,” said Robert Bertrand, owner of Cotton Cargo and volunteer for the event. “Seeing the kids come through the lines, a lot of them are crying tears of joy by the time they get to the end. It’s not hard getting volunteers for this event. All of them want to be a part of it. All of them want to feel the spirit and the good coming out of it.”

In addition to the bicycles themselves, children receive locks and helmets for their bikes, Bibles, teddy bears, jackets, wind suits, hoodies, athletic shirts, stocking caps, backpacks, tennis shoes, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, candy and more.

“We had twelve 18-wheelers of bikes and we have (more than) a thousand kids in here today,” Bertrand said. “They get to bring their whole families. We feed them. Everything from pizza, to corn dogs and burritos and ice cream: It’s all free. Our plan is to reach all the kids in need in the area somewhere between the (ages) of 6-12.”

There are around 400 volunteers that take part in the event, some putting in more than 20 hours, Bertrand said. The Thursday prior to the event each year, around 50 firefighter volunteers from Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399 unload 1,000 bicycles and other gifts.

“By doing this, we are giving back to the community and giving these children a good Christmas,” said Beaumont Fire and Rescue Capt. Brad Penisson, who also played Christmas songs on the trombone with the Firehouse Band for guests to enjoy. “Knowing that families are getting to have a Christmas that may not have been able to and watching the kids and their reactions, we get excited about this event every year.”

It was the first Bicycles and Bibles event for the Young Men’s Business League. Around three-dozen YMBL members volunteered to help in 2015.

“My guys went away with just a wide-eyed look on their faces,” said Andy Foote, who serves on the YMBL Board of Directors. “They just couldn’t believe how heartwarming it was.”

Families begin to show up around 8:30 a.m., anxiously awaiting entry to the event. In line, brothers Mathew and Blake Phillips and Trevor Williams talked about what they were most excited about this year – football.

“I’m going to play next year,” said Trevor, a Silsbee seventh grader. “We’re going to take ‘em to state!”

The boys hoped to get a football while inside. Their wish would be granted. Anita Leatherwood said the trio constantly plays pigskin, and a new football around their yard would be put to good use.

“The little one (Mathew) wants to be a quarterback,” she said. “He already broke his collarbone playing. He ended up on the bottom of the dogpile.”

Mathew was unfazed.

“I still wanna play,” he said.

Keilynn Bridges, 7, of Beaumont, said the pizza was his favorite food at Bikes and Bibles. Daniel Davis of Little Caesar’s Pizza and his crew prepared 1,000 pizzas for the event. But the treats didn’t stop there. Carlos Hernandez and his son of Carlito’s Mexican Restaurant prepared mouth-watering burritos, and Scoops dished out delicious ice cream.

The event is made possible not only through the Reaud Family Foundation’s efforts, but also by the kind donations of Reaud, Morgan & Quinn Law Firm, Cotton Cargo, Daylight Motors, the Bob Wortham family, the Glen Morgan family, the Hubert Oxford III family, the John Werner family, and the Larry Tillery family, among others.

Event planning begins in February, a mere two months following the previous year’s Bicycles and Bibles, and it is the masterwork of Beaumont attorney Wayne A. Reaud, who along with his brother Jon, works tirelessly each year to make the event so special that it leaves a lasting impact on each and every child who attends.

Yolanda Norman, 25, there with her children, mother and aunt, said she was beyond grateful for the happiness Bikes and Bibles was bringing to her household. Out of work, suffering from a medical condition she cannot afford the medication to treat, and struggling just to make ends meet, Yolanda said the holidays could have been bleak if not for Saturday’s event, which came as a surprise blessing.

“My mom did everything,” Yolanda said of her family’s attendance. “I didn’t know what I was going to do as far as my kids’ Christmas this year.

“This is so nice. Everywhere you look, everybody is helpful and happy. And I just love it. It really is for the kids – they’re having a great time.”

With an invitation to Bikes and Bibles, Yolanda said she hopes things are looking up for the family.

“I didn’t even have the money to pay my rent,” she said. “Now, by the grace of God, we’re here. It’s getting better. It really is.”

Stories like these are what keep the Reaud Family Foundation event so special each year.

“The program is built on love and passion for our children,” said Jon Reaud, executive director of the Reaud Family Foundation.

Wayne Reaud said he remembers the day he received his first bicycle and how proud he was of the new gift. He treasured it and said that he meditated on the goodness of the Lord to him and his family, and the thought came to him to share bicycles and Bibles with boys and girls all across the area. He often mentions his late mother, Gena Reaud, as the one who helped guide him and his brother in the ways of the Lord.

“She helped teach us compassion for others,” Wayne Reaud said. “Her teaching set the foundation from which this program sprang. I believe that if we can teach a child that the fundamentals needed for life are founded in the Word of God, he or she can formulate a code to live by each and every day.”

A puppet show by Power Castle ministries shared the story of Jesus Christ’s birth.

“The puppet program shares the true Christmas story of the Bible, which is how Jesus was born as our savior on Christmas, how he grew up and became a man, but was God at the same time,” said Pastor Craig Larson of Power Castle Ministries. “We’ve been working with the Bikes and Bibles program since it started. We provide the puppet show every year and register kids for the program. It’s been a real blessing to be a part of, and I believe it blesses the children and their families as well.”

The Reaud family is quick to give the credit to God, who is to be glorified through the event, however, and ensure that His message is the focal point of Bicycles and Bibles.

Because as James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

The Rev. John Adolph shared how God’s grace can illuminate any darkness that surrounds his people. God’s power was illustrated by flashlights handed out to each child at the event, so that they might shine light on the darkness that the world sometimes brings their way.

“Whenever you think about God, I want you to think about love because God loves you so much,” Rev. Adolph told the children. “God gave you the light of his leadership. … It’s dangerous in the dark. … You can get lost in the dark. … God gave us the light to remind us of who He is. … He is the bringer of light!”

Bicycles and Bibles attendee Michelle Judson, 42 of Vidor, said she felt the darkness that Rev. Adolph spoke of when her husband Tommy was diagnosed with a terminal illness.

“Last year my oldest daughter (Rayven Lott, 11) was nominated by her teacher,” Michelle said. “My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 kidney cancer, and we were struggling for Christmas.”

The event helped make ends meet for the family and gave Rayven, who suffers from Tourette syndrome and autism, a Christmas to remember.

“She looked at me and said, ‘I’m a movie star now,’” Michelle said. “When you walk in and they do all that clapping, you realize it’s for you. It makes you feel special.”

Six months ago Tommy passed away. The couple’s youngest daughter, Trinity, 7, is having a hard time dealing with her dad’s death, Michelle said.

“She doesn’t understand still,” her mother said. “Tommy was the best person we’ve ever known. I miss him. The kids miss him.”

The family was invited back in 2015. This time it was Trinity’s turn to be a Bicycles and Bibles recipient.

Michelle said the girls love the Bibles they received and that Trinity, who has just learned to read, is enjoying the stories, which are geared for kids.

“I’m just so grateful that there’s somebody out there that cares about us,” Michelle said. “It makes me feel really blessed that someone was actually paying attention. This event has shined light into our lives.”

—  Kevin King and Jennifer Johnson

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