Charitable event reaches milestone through annual ministry

Wayne A. Reaud and John Adolph with Lorelia Boehl, Billy Warren and Jon Adolph.

The Reaud Family Foundation achieved a remarkable milestone in 2016, now having given away over 30,000 bicycles and children’s Bibles and blessing tens of thousands of children’s lives since the program started in 1998 with the gifting of 125 bicycles at its first annual Bicycles and Bibles event.

The idea behind the program came from Wayne A. 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 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,” the Beaumont attorney and philanthropist 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 guided him and his brother Jon in the ways of the Lord and helped them learn to show compassion toward others.

One of the first families touched by the inaugural Bicycles and Bibles was Bishop Mark Smith, pastor of Solid Rock Community Church, and his daughter Delberta.

To commemorate the 30,000-bike milestone, Smith presented to Reaud the Kawasaki MX2200 that the Bicycles and Bibles founder had given to Delberta in 1998. The bicycle, one of the first ever distributed, was restored and presented to Reaud at the 18th annual event Saturday, Dec. 17, in a glass case to display at future Bicycles and Bibles events.

“We cleaned it up and got it back to its original state,” Smith said. “I thought presenting that bike back to him would be fitting for the kindness and generosity not only that he’s shown me but to the city and the surrounding areas of Beaumont.”

Families began to show up to Ford Park around 8:30 a.m., anxiously awaiting entry to the event, many not knowing what to expect.

Nicole Floyd, who is originally from Utah and now lives in Vidor, said she has never seen an event quite like Bicycles and Bibles.

“They never did anything like this up north where I lived. I’m a single mom with five kids … and I’ve lost four jobs this year,” said Floyd, adding that her daughter, Stevie Gayler, 2, has asthma and recently had surgery on her leg for methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) caused by an infected spider bite, leading to her being hospitalized four times and adding to the family’s hardships. “It was fluctuating back and forth whether they were going to have Christmas or not this year, so this is a huge blessing for us.”

The event is made possible not only through the Reaud Family Foundation’s efforts, but also by the kind donations of the Glen Morgan family, the Hubert Oxford III family, the John Werner family, the Larry Tillery family and Daylight Motors, among others. Joining in the effort this year was Beaumont cardiologist Dr. Rudy Sotolongo and his family.

“We’re blessed, and we just love to help others and spread some joy and happiness for Christmas. This event is very meaningful and spiritually fulfilling to us. We love to see all the children and families happy. We brought our grandchildren, so they can also see how much joy this event brings to kids’ lives,” said Dr. Sotolongo, who provided candy for the 1,000 children, who also received, in addition to their bicycles, locks and helmets, Bibles, teddy bears, jackets, wind suits, hooded sweatshirts, athletic shirts, stocking caps, backpacks, tennis shoes, basketballs, footballs, soccer balls and more.

In addition to all these great presents the kids received, they also got to partake in a feast of good food.

Guests enjoyed everything from Little Caesar’s Pizza and Chick-fil-A sandwiches to corn dogs and Carlito’s burritos. There was even ice cream from the Reaud Foundation Ice Cream Shoppe, a new addition this year.

“They get to bring their whole families. We feed them, and it’s all free,” said Robert Bertrand, owner of Cotton Cargo. “Our plan is to reach all the kids in need in the area somewhere between the (ages) of 6-12.

“For a lot of these kids, this is their Christmas,” Bertrand pointed out. “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.”

Bertrand helps coordinate the efforts of more than 400 volunteers who take part in the event. Planning for the event begins in February, and the Thursday prior to the event each year, around 20-30 firefighters from Beaumont Professional Firefighters Local 399 volunteer to unload 1,000 bicycles and other gifts.

“For the Beaumont firefighters, this is one of those events we look forward to,” said Beaumont Fire-Rescue Capt. Brad Penisson, who also played Christmas songs on the trombone with the Firehouse Band for guests to enjoy. “As firefighters, we’re out there dealing with the public usually on one of the worst days of their lives, and there is not much we can do for them at that point except mitigate the circumstances. This is one of those times when we can interact with them on a good basis and have a lot of fun doing it and at the same time give back to them and help them in a better way.”

In addition to a puppet show by Power Castle ministries and Pastor Craig Larson, who shared the story of Jesus Christ’s birth, children got a chance to meet the Nem Loof Clowns from the El Mina Shrine, who participated in the event for the first time this year, making balloon hats and swords for the kids.

“We had a blast and intend to do it again next year,” said Doug Jones, secretary/treasurer of the Nem Loof Clowns. “It was great. They do an exceptional job for the kids.”

Perhaps even more important than the many gifts the children received was the message of Jesus’s love told to them by the Rev. John Adolph of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.

“Boys and girls, in just a few moments, you’ll get a bike, but that won’t be your most important gift,” Rev. Adolph said. “The most important gift you’re going to receive … will be a Bible because in that Bible is the story of a man named Jesus.”

As part of Adolph’s presentation, children received a wand with a star at its tip, which they were asked to raise at certain parts of his message.

“The star that day, children, told us that the season was about Jesus Christ,” he said. “It wasn’t about the wise men or the shepherds in the field. This season you are celebrating is about the birth of a man who became us to save us. That man’s name is Jesus.”

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 Reaud 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.”

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