Published on December 9, 2015 – Melanie Tucker, The Daily Times
(Maryville) This is the time of year when the Bike Elf really hits his groove.
Dewayne Wilson, a resident of Townsend, created this nonprofit that provides bikes to children who might otherwise not get one. At Christmas, the time for giving, the Bike Elf has been busy.
Just last week, Dewayne and his wife Leigh, presented 18 refurbished and new bikes to the Blount County Salvation Army. The bikes will be under the Christmas trees of Blount County families.
The whole idea for this program came out of a dinner held last January. Leigh said a friend, Christi Fightmaster, noticed that the last names left on the Angel Tree were requests for bikes. Angel Trees typically have the names of children pinned to them with a Christmas wish list. That got Dewayne to thinking. If a child wants a bike, he or she should have one, he told Leigh. Getting outside, enjoying the freedom of riding in the neighborhood and fresh air are the best memories of childhood.
So the couple started the Bike Elf just under a year ago. Leigh said to date, they have taken in 250 bikes. A total of 119 are being given to children at the Blount County Boys and Girls Club. Then 18 more were delivered to the Salvation Army and its captain, Jon-Phil Winter.
The Salvation Army has Angel Trees at the Starbucks located at 1011 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway, Maryville; at Allstate, 727 W. Lamar Alexander Parkway; and at Brown Chiropractic, 217 N. Calderwood St., Alcoa.
“We have 255 children that we are helping,” Winter said. “That is 106 families.”
He said Dec. 12 is the deadline for taking a name from the Angel Tree and providing the wish list. The distribution is set for Dec. 19.
Leigh and Dewayne stressed there are ways to help out besides providing bicycles. You can donate money into the Red Kettle Campaign that is going on currently or take a name from then Angel Trees. That will mean a brighter Christmas for families in need.
Winter said some families might want to come together and get one name from the Angel Tree instead of one person doing it alone.
He is very appreciative of the Wilsons for being Bike Elves. Some families have more than one child and Christmas is tough on a small income.
Leigh and Dewayne continue to take in bikes so they can send them back out looking good as new.
“We get calls every week,” Leigh said. “It’s been awesome.”
For more information on the Bike Elf, visit www.bike-elf.org or call 865-336-2967. They also have a Facebook page.