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Elgin bike giveaway program brings Smiles for Christmas

ElgCrime Free Housing Officer KevSnow fills out registraticard for one 70 bikes given away by ElgHousing Authority Tuesday night. Registered

Elgin Crime Free Housing Officer Kevin Snow fills out the registration card for one of the 70 bikes given away by the Elgin Housing Authority Tuesday night. Registered bikes have a better chance of being returned to the owner, he said. | Janelle Walker for Sun-Times Media.

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Updated: January 21, 2014 6:22AM

ELGIN — Knowing that 70 area children would get bikes for Christmas this year, Officer Kevin Snow remembered that Giant Bicycles, one of the largest bike companies in the world, has a warehouse here.

Snow knew about the company because of a call for service there years ago. He called the firm Tuesday morning to see if it could make any kind of bike-related donation to the Housing Authority of Elgin’s “Smiles for Christmas” program.

Parents or grandparents who live in one of the housing authority properties and took a personal finance management class were eligible to receive bikes for their children or grandchildren through the program. The bikes were then given away Tuesday night at The Centre of Elgin’s ballroom.

In addition to a bike helmet, each child received a bike lock provided by Giant, Snow said. “I made one phone call this morning, and got a call back this afternoon” offering the locks, Snow said.

After the children received their bikes, Snow and Officer Rob Hartman wrote down each child’s name and address and the bikes identification, registering the bike with the city.

If the bike disappears, there is a better chance of recovering in and returning it to its owner when it is registered, Snow said.

The bikes were purchased with donated funds, said Monica Smith, chief officer of government, community and external affairs at the housing authority. They were purchased at a bulk discount from Wal-Mart, which assembled and delivered the bikes to The Centre.

Lisette Kilberts of Watch Court watched her 5-year-old son, Xander, and 3-year-old daughter, ZaNiyah, practice riding on their brand new bikes with training wheels attached.

ZaNiyah’s pink bike came — as did many others for the small girls — with a doll-sized child seat attached to the bike. ZaNiyah tried to buckle herself into the child seat.

“This is an awesome deal” for her two kids, Kilberts said.

Her children have had bikes before — second-hand ones picked up at garage sales, she noted.

Her oldest son’s bike, however, had been stolen. The locks will help prevent that, she said, as will having the new bikes registered with the city.

Emily Kish, age 11, was a little concerned that the first bike she received Tuesday was too small for her — as is the one she had at home, said her mom, Elizabeth Downs.

But there was an extra adult cruising bike available, so Emily got one that should fit her for many years to come.

Mom was thinking about the possibilities with the new bike, including taking the kids on the train to downtown Chicago and riding bikes on the lakefront.

Emily said she is looking forward to riding her bike to the pool and library, too.

“This is a big deal for her, since she outgrew her old bike,” Downs said.

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