News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Christmas came early for 5-year-old Olivia and 175 other kids. She's never had a bike before, but thanks to the Santa Wheels program, she's got some wheels of her own.
Once a year at Master Buick GMC, pedal power is more important than horse power.
George Sleister, founder of Santa Wheels, who used to work at the dealership, got the idea to give bikes to kids in 1995 after finding one in the trash.
"I thought it was a good bike. All it needed was a couple of tires. I brought it in the shop and we repaired the bike. Pretty soon, word got around that I was going to give it to a needy child," Sleister said.
Goodwill hires workers to refurbish the bikes, Andy Jordan's provides parts and Safe Kids of Georgia donates helmets for all the kids.
However, Sleister says others deserve credit, too.
"The community has been great. They've come together. We've got a lot of cash donations this year. We've added probably 25 new bikes this year," he said.
To get help to the families most in need, parents apply through the Christmas Clearing House. Next year, Sleister says he hopes even more families make the the list, so more kids like Olivia can smile like this on Christmas.
"I don't think it will ever be enough. As soon as every child that wants a bike gets a bike that parents can't afford to buy one," Sleister said.
Helping is easy. You can donate bikes year-round at Goodwill and Master Buick GMC begins collecting bikes in October.