Anonymous donor gives 285 bikes to JA Wish Tree
A very special secret Santa has ensured the Christmas joy of all the children participating in the annual Junior Auxiliary Wish Tree project. This year, every child will find a new bike and helmet under the tree, and the man who gifted all of them doesn’t want you to know his name.
The Wish Tree project began Nov. 2 when pink and blue paper ornaments were hung on six Christmas trees located in designated spots around town. These ornaments represented 285 children from almost 150 families.
“In a story in The Daily Leader’s Brookhaven Magazine, I said we had 75 bikes donated last year and the goal this year was 100 bikes,” said Junior Auxiliary Wish Tree Co-Chairman Mendez Vaughan. “I got a call from a gentleman and he said ‘Well what if you had 285 bikes, how would you like that?’”
Vaughan said tears welled up in her eyes and she felt it was answer to prayer. Every child on each Wish Tree would have a brand new bike and helmet on Christmas day.
“I was blown away,” Vaughan said. “Not only are bikes a childhood staple, but a healthy one at that. Having a bike as a child is one of the things that allows them to be active. I, like many others, have great childhood memories riding my bike. We wanted to provide that for every child, and now we actually will.”
Vaughan said the JA elves then had to make some adjustments in order to accommodate the incredible donation. The State Room at State Bank was reserved for the gift distribution, which will now be held at the FEMA building on Industrial Park Road.
As part of the adjustment, JA is letting the cat out of the bag a little bit early. Vaughan said JA told the families, almost 150 of them, to come to Thursday’s present distribution prepared for large presents. With some families having more than one child, and now more than one bike, families with small vehicles might need to make adjustments on pick-up day.
“We were blown away just to even know that there was this kind of generosity in the community,” Vaughan said.
One JA member, Jasmine Wilson, printed out on cardstock tags for each bike that say it was purchased by a gracious member of the community who wanted to remain anonymous. Now every child will know that someone out there, who might never meet them, wishes them the merriest of Christmases.
Vaughan said this is a community-wide event that wouldn’t have been possible without every contribution — from monetary gifts to adopting a child on the tree, to the Brookhaven High School baseball team, coaches and parents who donated their practice time to transport the bikes. Wal-Mart Distribution Center donated two 18-wheelers and two drivers to make the transport possible.
“The community effort has been greatly needed and appreciated more than anybody could know,” Vaughan said.