BIKE

Orlando Sentinel - - LOCAL & STATE - [email protected]­lan­dosen­tinel.com

sta­tion.

Shee­han ar­rived at Howard Mid­dle Mon­day morn­ing on the back of a fire truck, which fol­lowed a pro­ces­sion of Or­lando po­lice on horse­back and other emer­gency ve­hi­cles.

Mari­cruz Cruz, whose 6-year-old son Ian Or­tizCruz was gifted a new bike, said the pro­gram means a lot to her be­cause she wouldn’t be able to buy him such a gift.

“We can’t af­ford it,” Cruz said. “… It’s some­thing to keep him busy. That’s what he needs.”

She re­called the feel­ing of “liberty” that came with get­ting her first bi­cy­cle as a child. She wants her son to ex­pe­ri­ence the same feel­ing, she said.

“It’s scary be­cause you don’t know what’s go­ing [through] his mind, he can be lost, but… at the same time, he needs that free­dom,” Cruz said.

Clad in a Santa hat and red blazer with Christmas trees on it, Shee­han boomed over the speaker, call­ing out the names of each child who would be re­ceiv­ing a new bike. She said their smil­ing faces as they stepped up to claim their gifts were her fa­vorite part.

“I’ve seen a lot of these kids grow up in this pro­gram,” she said. “… Ev­ery in­vest­ment that you make in these chil­dren are re­turned ten­fold.”

In the 18 years since she started the pro­gram, Shee­han has dis­trib­uted more than 1,100 bikes. They ar­rive on dis­tri­bu­tion day in­di­vid­u­ally ad­dressed to each child, a tag with their name on it hang­ing from the han­dle­bars.

“It never gets old for me. I al­ways cry ev­ery time I do this,” she said as the crowd dis­persed and kids rode off on their new wheels. “This is Christmas for me.”

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