Sidney, Shelby County and the spirit of giving

By Mike Barhorst - Contributing columnist

Mark Reedy recently kicked off Mark’s Toys for Tots Bike Drive. He conducted a similar drive in Sidney in 2015 after conducting his first such bike drive the year before in Piqua.

I had the opportunity to watch the first ever Mark’s Toys for Tots Bike Drive from a unique perspective. At the time, my office was located almost directly across the street from Mark Reedy’s Thrivent Financial office in downtown Piqua. When he announced that he was going to rotate the drive between Piqua, Sidney and Greenville every three years, I knew that it was something I could support.

There was one image from that first experience that haunts me still. I was standing on the street near my office door talking with a passerby when a young boy pressed his nose against the window and looked inside. One of the bicycles donated for the drive was located inside the front window of my office.

The young boy turned away from the window, his face hopeful, and asked his mother, “Mommy, would you please sign me up for a bicycle?”

“Absolutely not!” she replied in a voice that bordered on anger. “No one is ever going to know that I can’t afford to buy you a bicycle – just forget it!”

Although I was tempted to say something to the mother, there was something so cold and final in her answer that I decided not to get involved in what I determined might only have made things worse for the young boy, who already had tears running down his face as they hurried on their way. I never saw either of them again, but have often wished that I might have known the identity of the boy so that “Santa” could have personally delivered a bicycle to his home.

Mark Reedy strongly believes that every kid who wants a bicycle should have one, whether their parents can afford one or not. His reasons are several — one of the most important being exercise. Cycling improves strength, balance and coordination. Riding a bike is an ideal form of exercise for people young and old because it is a low-impact exercise that places little stress on joints.

As the year winds to a close, each of us has any number of opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. Through our respective houses of worship, civic organizations and a number of non-profit organizations, there are multiple opportunities to help make the lives of those around us better. Mark’s Bike Drive is one of those.

In a unique collaboration, Mark raises the funds necessary for the purchase of the bicycles, and the United States Marine Corps League’s Toys for Tots program distributes the bicycles through the Salvation Army. I only witnessed the distribution of the bicycles that first year. On the day the parents came to the Salvation Army to pick up the presents for their children, I can’t tell you the joy that filled the building at 129 S. Wayne St. in Piqua as the 201 donated bikes were loaded into nearly every variety of vehicle by parents from Piqua, Fletcher, Covington and Bradford. The joy radiated from the faces of parents who knew that they too, would be able to give their child a shiny new bicycle on Christmas.

This year, Mark Reedy has brought Mark’s Toys for Tots Bike Drive back to our community. Thus far, the parents of more than 200 children have met the established guidelines to qualify for a shiny new bicycle this Christmas for one or more of their children. Santa will deliver the bicycles in Anna, Botkins, Fort Loramie, Houston, Jackson Center, Kettlersville, Lockington, Port Jefferson, Russia and Sidney and other points within Shelby County.

I don’t know of a better gift than knowing that one of the kids who reside in our community, perhaps one of our neighbors, will be riding a new bicycle after Christmas. In addition, each recipient will also receive a new helmet to ensure they ride safely.

There are many, many good causes, all worthy of our charitable dollars. It is up to each of us to decide how we can best give back for the many blessings we have received. If you can afford to contribute to this cause, I would encourage you to do so.

The average cost of each bicycle is $90. If you want to donate, donations of any amount are welcome. Simply mail your contribution to Mark’s Toys for Tots Bike Drive, 429 N. Main St., Piqua, Ohio 45356. So that Mark and his elves can have the bicycles assembled and ready to deliver on time, donations should be made no later than Nov. 30.

I’ll echo the words of Oprah Winfrey: “I don’t think you should ever stop giving, and it’s not about being able to write a check. It’s being able to touch someone’s life.”

By Mike Barhorst

Contributing columnist

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.

The writer is the mayor of Sidney.