Give the gift of a bicycle to children in Immokalee by supporting the Gift a Bike program, which raises money to purchase bicycles and helmets for children at Christmas time.
The program began 11 years ago with Senovia Rincon, who was given two bicycles by a business owner to give to the community. The year after that, Senovia and her son, Frank Rincon, asked for donations from their church and they were able to give away 25 bikes and helmets. The number of bicycles the program gives away has increased each year.
Frank Rincon is now the organizer of the program as well as a youth pastor at Bethel Assembly in Immokalee. He remembers growing up as a poor child and getting his first bike.
“For these kids to get a brand new bicycle and a helmet, it just brings a smile to your face,” he said.
Rincon said that last year, the Gift a Bike program gave away 250 bicycles and helmets to children in Immokalee. There were still children who went home without bikes.
Rincon said, “It hurt me when I saw these kids leave without a bicycle this past year and I promised myself to do everything possible to be able to raise money to buy as many bicycles as we could.” This year, Rincon hopes to double last year’s give-away. His goal is to raise $30,000 to purchase 500 bikes with helmets.
In order to help raise the money, Rincon and three companions will be riding bikes from Kitty Hawk, N.C., back to Immokalee on what they call the Miles 4 Smiles ride — an 1,000-mile trip. Adam Winkle, a second-grade teacher at Immokalee Community School, Joel Gamez, a local business owner, and Joey Gamez, Joel’s son, will be accompanying Rincon. They will begin riding on June 14 and return on June 26. The riders will be averaging 100 miles a day for the duration of the trip for a total of 1,200 miles.
Rincon said, “I won’t be happy unless we’ve raised $30,000.” Rincon and his three riding companions have pledged to shave their heads if they meet their goal. “Hopefully people want to see us bald,” Rincon said.
Winkle used to work with financially disadvantaged children and children with other needs in Missouri before he moved to Immokalee. In Missouri, Winkle was involved with a similar program that happened during Christmas time where children were given clothing items that they needed along with an opportunity to take pictures with Santa.
“I’d love to see the faces of the kids when they get a bike,” Winkle said. “I’ve seen the face of a pair of shoes. I can only imagine, when you hand them a brand new bike, what their face is going to be.”
Winkle hopes that Rincon’s efforts to give back to his community will encourage others with means to help Immokalee in the same way.
This year, Rincon’s plan is to give 50 bicycle vouchers to 10 schools in the community so that 25 boys and 25 girls will receive bikes in each school. Rincon hopes that students who do not have bicycles and are doing well in school will receive the bikes as encouragement to continue to achieve.
The Miles 4 Smiles trip can be followed on Facebook by searching for Gift a Bike. Once the ride begins, the riders will be uploading videos and pictures from their trip.
All donations are welcomed. Supporters are encouraged to pledge amounts per mile and Rincon said that even a penny per mile, or $12, will help. Checks should be made out to Gift a Bike and sent to 1225 W. Main St., Immokalee, FL 34142. Donations can also be made online at www.fundeasy.com/m/709763/.