Many children are blessed with the gifts of bicycles every year thanks to OK Bikes 4 Kids.
John Ballard, executive director, runs OK Bikes 4 Kids out of his Yukon home with the help of his family and Fox 25’s Jeff George.
“It’s mainly all family,” Ballard said.
OK Bikes 4 Kids is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization with the mission of getting every boy and girl in need a bicycle to love and care for.
“The power of a bicycle has so much more than meets the eye,” George’s bio on okcfox.com reads. “It reaches the hearts of our children, puts a smile on their face, and changes their lives in so many ways.”
Ballard started OK Bikes 4 Kids around 15 or 16 years ago because he had a stroke and was just getting out of a wheelchair. He said he always talked to the children in the neighborhood as they walked by and he noticed a few times there would be a couple of children or a group of children and all but one would be riding a bike.
“It all started by going down to this dump and getting bicycles and bringing them back and repairing them. Then I’d give them to the kids that don’t have a bike,” Ballard said. “I had nothing else to do at the time.
“Now it’s grown, it’s grown big. Sometimes it almost gets out of my hands because we’re just a family operation. We don’t have any big backing or anything.”
Ballard said during the summertime, they give away between 700 and 1,000 bikes and usually between 250 and 300 for Christmas. They keep paperwork on every bike because theft is so bad so the police know who the bike belongs to, Ballard added.
Andrew “Andy” Willrath with the Mustang Fire Department helped this year.
“It was our pleasure,” Willrath said in regards to helping Ballard and OK Bikes 4 Kids this Christmas. “He’s got a great system going. It was great. I hope to continue the partnership.”
Guardian Store on South Czech Hall Road also helps OK Bikes 4 Kids by donating storage lockers for the bikes.
Christian Brothers Automotive Yukon and other garages donate metal, which also helps.
OK Bikes 4 Kids takes donations all year. Ballard said they don’t ask for cash, but they do ask for new or old bikes, riding and push mowers, weed eaters, rototillers, refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, appliances of all kinds and all metal.
“That’s how we do it—people supplying us with old metal, junk and stuff,” Ballard said. “That is a big deal.”
To donate to OK Bikes 4 Kids, people can bring things to 615 Holly Ave. in Yukon across from Kimbell Park or contact Ballard at 589-8773 or by email at [email protected]. OK Bikes 4 Kids will also pick up for those who cannot drop off.
Ballard said they sometimes struggle because they’re just on a Social Security fixed income.
“We don’t have no money, but we sure can give ‘em bicycles,” Ballard said. “We get through it every year. We’re blessed by God and the good people in Yukon who brings us bikes and mowers and stuff. Those wonderful people in Yukon keep us going. I never know what I’m going to find on my driveway from donations but every time I do it’s a big smile and a big blessing and a big thank you.”
Ballard said they especially needed financial help this year so they’ve decided to start mowing lawns to raise money for OK Bikes 4 Kids.
“We’re good at lawn mowing and weed eating and stuff so we’re actually going to start mowing lawns to help us do this,” Ballard said. “We’ve done it before to help people—older people.”
Ballard said his stepson Ben O’Dea helps him do everything for OK Bikes 4 Kids and he’ll be helping mow lawns.
“We think it’ll be a big help to us. This year at Christmas time we could’ve used a lot more help,” Ballard said. “So we came up with an idea—‘How can we come up with more money to put away to help these families?’—we have so many families right here in Oklahoma City and Yukon that are really needing help.”
OK Bikes 4 Kids does a lot more than bicycles for families who need it, sometimes even clearing out their own refrigerator or cabinets to provide others with food.
One family they helped this year was on Monday, the day after Christmas, in which their daughter Daniele Steele found out the family didn’t have a Christmas dinner or any gifts, and it was also the family’s little girl’s birthday.
“So I said, ‘well I’ve got two more turkeys,’” Ballard’s wife Donna said. I thought ‘oh that’s so sad, not to even have Christmas dinner. We have to help them.’”
Daniele then went to the store and bought “bags and bags” of groceries. She bought enough for them to have a week’s worth of groceries, as well as a week’s worth for another friend she was helping.
Her daughter Sierra Steele, 17, also bought the family a ham with her Christmas money.
“That was really neat,” Ballard said. “Everyone in this family will go at it to help a family.”
Marty Wilson, a member of the family they helped, took to Facebook to show her appreciation for OK Bikes 4 Kids.
“God is so good. I pray he blesses this family for everything they did for my family. My son didn’t have presents for his children and his little girl’s birthday is today. They also gave us enough food to feed us and my two neighbors for the week,” Wilson’s Facebook post read. “Thank you, there’s just not enough words for what I want to say. God bless your family. Love the Wilson family.”
OK Bikes 4 Kids also gave them new bicycles, scooters and other toys.
Another family OK Bikes 4 Kids helped this week was Shannon Matthews and her two daughters, six-year-old Kaydence and three-year-old Kynderlyn.
Matthews took to Facebook around 9:30 p.m. the night of Christmas Eve as the “really upset mom.” She was approved to receive toys from Yukon’s Toy Shoppe and had received a Fisher Price Dora Big Wheel Bike for Kynderlyn. It was meant to be her big gift from Santa so as she went to put it together to put under the tree on Christmas Eve, she realized there were parts missing.
“Now my three-year-old doesn’t have a big Santa and my six-year-old does… I don’t want to put one Santa out and the other not have one… I do count all my blessings that I had help with these gifts just very disappointed for my baby,” Matthews’s Facebook post read.
Plenty of people commented offering other toys or suggestions, but Brenda Choate, Ballard’s daughter, commented on the post with a picture of Ballard holding a pink bike with training wheels and told her it was hers if she was interested. OK Bikes 4 Kids ending up giving her two bikes so each child could have one, two scooters and helmets for both.
Matthews said she wasn’t expecting to get anything out of the post, but just wanted to voice her opinions and warn people to always check the gifts beforehand, but she just can’t thank them enough.
“I broke down in their living room. They’re just all so nice and it was so overwhelming. It was amazing,” Matthews said.
The next morning the girls woke up before Matthews and she heard them talking and getting excited saying “Look! Santa brought bikes!”
“They were so excited. My mom and I took them out Christmas morning on their bikes and scooters,” Matthews said. “I just couldn’t thank them enough for everything they did for me and my girls.”
Matthews also took to Facebook to show her appreciation to OK Bikes 4 Kids afterward.
Ballard said both the Wilson’s and the Matthews’s stories brought tears to his eyes and he was happy to help.
“[The posts] weren’t really recognition, it was just thank you and that helps us know we’re doing some good,” Ballard said. “I don’t need recognition, my recognition is Heaven. Anything I’m going to get, I’ll get it from the Lord.”
“Sometimes people will say ‘oh, he’s such a great guy’ but that’s not what we’re after. We’re just blessed by God. It’s wonderful that they appreciate our help though,” Ballard said. “We’ve all been there at one time or another and it’s a rough way to go.”
Donna added that they just like to help people.
“It’s a continuous thing year-round, and we do what we say,” Ballard said. “I of course buy gas in my truck because I have to, but people can trust us. We do what we say.”
Ballard said he can’t go to Wal-Mart without children knowing he’s the guy from OK Bikes 4 Kids or thinking he’s Santa Clause, which always makes him laugh.
For more information on OK Bikes 4 Kids, visit their Facebook page or call Ballard at 589-8773.