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Foundation to give bicycles to needy, abused children
If the proverb is true and it does take a village to raise a child, then Southlake and Keller are doing their part to give needy North Texas children a leg-up.
The Spokes4Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization, will host the annual Keller and Southlake Police Motorcycle Rodeo benefiting children of North Texas who are in need or have suffered abuse. The event will be held from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 10 at Cabelas, 12901 Cabela Drive in Fort Worth. The rodeo begins with a motorcycle practice run from 7 to 9:30 a.m. The event opens to the public at 10 a.m. followed by the opening ceremonies at noon. Santa bike gifting will begin at 2 p.m. and the event concludes with an awards ceremony at 5 p.m.
"At the rodeo, we'll give away 200 bicycles to pre-selected children," said Southlake officer Alton Wells, who is also one of the founders of the foundation. "We know before the rodeo which children are receiving a bicycle. With that information, we size the bicycles to their specifications, pick gender specific bicycles and put the child's name on the bicycles. The children know that the bike is specifically for them. One thing that's very special to us is that the officers who compete in the rodeo bring children from their cities to receive their bicycles."
Wells said the 200 bicycles are purchased entirely through donations. The foundation has corporate sponsors but also receives donations from residents. For $75, a donor will provide a bicycle, helmet and a teddy bear for a child this Christmas. Donations may be made individually or as a group. Along with the gift, each child will receive a card with the donor's name or the name of the group.
Checks should be payable to Spokes4Hope and dropped off at the Southlake DPS head quarters, 600 State Street or mailed to the same address, zip code 76092 c/o Southlake Police Officer Alton Wells.
"For $75, the average person can help a local child. People can give less if they can't afford the full amount, and we will compile donations together to reach $75," Wells said. "Last year more than 3,000 bicycles were purchased through donations, assembled by volunteers and given to children in need. This foundation is 100 percent nonprofit."
Wells said only 200 are given at the rodeo because the process is time consuming. The remaining bicycles are given away at different children's advocacy centers in North Texas. In order to find children who are in need, the foundation members keep in contact with advocacy centers in Denton, Tarrant and Dallas counties, among others. Wells said another benefit of the rodeo is the opportunity for the foundation to raise awareness of the children's advocacy centers.
"In addition to various north Texas children's advocacy centers, we also work with food banks, churches and single mom's groups to find families in need," Wells said. "We don't necessarily set a goal each year. Instead, we go by what area advocacy centers say. The need seems to be increasing each year. We've had numerous parents come up to us and thank us for giving their child a Christmas because they weren't able to."
The Spokes4Hope Foundation was founded by Wells, Kevin Howell, a Southlake resident, Mike Norris, an officer with the Keller Police Department, Paul Gregory, a Southlake officer and Craig Ludwig, a former Dallas Stars hockey player.
Even though the first event was held in 2008, the inspiration for the foundation happened more than 10 years prior to that.
On Aug. 14, 1997, Wells was struck by a car while on duty on his police motorcycle. He was taken by CareFlite and died several times on the way to the hospital. He was told by doctors that he would never be able to return to his job. Wells spent months in rehab following the accident relearning simple every day tasks.
"Robert Hodges really stood behind me during that time. He and I used to be partners on the job," Wells said. "He was always there. Then seven years ago, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. He was diagnosed October 2005, and he died the next August."
Wells said his concern was to help Hodges' family. Together, he and Howell put together several fundraisers and eventually raised enough money for Hodges' son's college education.
"When we finished, we said we have to continue this," Wells said. "We thought of giving away bicycles to needy and abused children because every kid should have bike - it gives them a little expression of freedom."
Wells said donations will be accepted at the rodeo and may be made online at www.spokes4hope.com. The competition is open to law enforcement officers who are currently certified to operate a police motorcycle. Registration is open through Nov. 1.
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