Christmas comes early for 88 kids

An­nual Wheels for Kids gives chil­dren in Or­lando new bikes.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Tess Sheets

Onika Andino broke through a crowd of dozens gath­ered around Or­lando Com­mis­sioner Patty Shee­han out­side Howard Mid­dle School Mon­day when she heard her name over a loud speaker. Next to Shee­han were Santa Claus and a baby blue bi­cy­cle with pur­ple ped­als.

Onika, 6, was one of 88 chil­dren whose Christmas came a cou­ple days early, re­ceiv­ing brand new bikes through the com­mis­sioner’s an­nual Wheels for Kids pro­gram. The chil­dren live in Reeves Ter­race, a pub­lic hous­ing neigh­bor­hood about a mile from the mid­dle school.

Sil­ver tas­sels hung from the han­dle­bars of Onika’s Frozen-themed bike, which she walked up to the front steps of the mid­dle school to be fit­ted with a hel­met. Other chil­dren tested out their new wheels, bik­ing in cir­cles at the front of the school.

The bi­cy­cle give-away was started by Shee­han in 2002, when the Reeves Ter­race neigh­bor­hood lost its bus­ing to lo­cal schools. It’s funded ev­ery year by nu­mer­ous donors. The week prior to de­liv­ery, the bikes are as­sem­bled by Or­lando fire­fight­ers at the down­town

TESS SHEETS/OR­LANDO SEN­TINEL

Onika Andino, 6, stands in front of Howard Mid­dle School on Mon­day with her mom, Shaleen Rivera, af­ter re­ceiv­ing a bike through the pro­gram.

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