For the eighth consecutive year, some 1,300 underprivileged kids in an Akron neighborhood experienced the Christmas spirit first-hand with the gift of a new bicycle, thanks to non-profit organization Elves and More of Northeastern Ohio, the Akron Police Department and a host of local businesses, including local trucking company, Con-way Freight.
Con-way Freight’s tractor trailers played the part of Santa’s Sleigh this weekend, rolling into an impoverished Akron neighborhood on Sunday morning and surprising children there with a delivery of 1,300 new bicycles — all given away as gifts. Elves and More and its volunteers fitted the bikes to each child, also providing safety helmets, tricycles for younger children and gift boxes for infants.
The organization has come a long way from its first surprise delivery in 2006, when it assembled and gave away 400 bikes, noted Elves and More Founder Tim House. “Everyone remembers their first bike. For me personally, it represented freedom and opportunity,” said House. “When we started Elves and More, we wanted to give local, underprivileged kids the joy of owning a bike, and to bring neighborhoods together to support those children as they grow up.”
House coordinates a team of partners to bring Elves and More to life, including the Akron Police Department, the Akron Children’s Hospital, foundations in the Akron area and local businesses. Con-way Freight became involved through House’s childhood friend, Joe Caliri, a long-time employee of Con-way Freight in Akron. “My buddy, Joe Caliri is a truck driver. He and I grew up poor in the Akron neighborhoods we deliver to now. When I started this project eight years ago, he and Con-way Freight immediately stepped up and helped make it possible.”
Con-way Freight donates its trucking services to ship the bikes across country and deliver them in time for Christmas. Its local employees also volunteer for the annual “bike build” event the weekend before, when hundreds of volunteers come together and spend a day assembling the bikes. “It is one of our busiest times of the year, but Elves and More is a cause that we all feel is well worth the extra time and effort,” said Con-way Freight’s Caliri, who’s worked with House on Elves and More since its inception. “I still remember my first bike and how it gave me the ability to start my own paper route as a kid. I learned the value of hard work and determination, which allowed me to make a better life for myself and my family.”
“Con-way Freight is proud to support Elves and More both in the volunteer time our employees give and the pro-bono services we provide to transport the bikes,” said Tom Clark, the company’s senior vice president of operations. “My family and I were personally thrilled to participate again in the bike delivery day. It reminds us all of the true meaning of Christmas, and the importance of giving back to our communities and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.”
Con-way Freight is one of hundreds of donors and volunteers supporting Elves and More in this, its eighth year of making Christmas a bit more joyous for Akron children from infants to age eighteen.