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Students Assemble Bikes to Make Holidays Brighter for Kids

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Students Assemble Bikes to Make Holidays Brighter for Kids

Bikes 4 Tykes 400

It's 10 a.m. on a frigid Saturday morning in early December, when college students across the land are sleeping off a hard week of studies and maybe an evening of TGIF partying besides. But outside the Facilities Operations Center at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, a brigade of football players unload boxed bicycle kits from a semi-trailer and stage them on the frosty pavement.

This was the scene last Saturday when Rose-Hulman student volunteers helped assemble, inspect, sort and deliver bicycles in the annual Bikes for Tykes community service drive. Inside, the building was filled with activity and warm thoughts as a variety of student groups assembled 481 bicycles and tricycles over the course of four hours at 44 work stations.

For the past 10 years, Rose-Hulman students have volunteered to take part in the Bikes for Tykes program, organized by the Exchange Club of Terre Haute, and this year, the students built more bikes than ever before.

"We couldn't do this without these wonderful and caring Rose-Hulman students, and the great facilities made available on campus," said Jeff Ennen of the Exchange Club. "With wrenches, screw drivers and pliers in their hands, this is as hands-on of a community service activity as you're going to get."

Bikes 4 Tykes Grant

Freshman football player Grant DePalma
totes one of the nearly 500 bicycle kits that he
and team mates unloaded and staged.

Football player Grant DePalma was part of the unloading crew. The Chicago native smiled, a fur hat perched atop his head, as he toted a bicycle kit into the building, lining it up with several others to provide easy access to the assembly crews. The kit was quickly snatched and began the assembly process.

"We've been carrying kits since 8:15," said the civil engineering major of his teammates. "I'm a freshman, so I'm just starting out. Looks like I'll be doing this all four years."

Nearby, Chi Omega members Candice Sandberg, Maggie Schultz, Lauren Dobias and Jessica Spore assembled a red 24-inch boys bicycle with help from Danville High School student Melanie Turner. This was the second community service activity of the day for the sorority group. Their morning began earlier with a trip to a nearby Walmart.

"Clothe-a-Child was at 5:00 this morning," Spore said.

"We take six kids each and we walk them through Walmart and make sure they get everything they need," Sandberg added.

Now the Chi Omega members were spending the rest of their morning assembling bicycles for hundreds of needy kids. Turner has joined their group, Sandberg explained, as part of a class requirement to do community service. "Somewhere she sees herself in the future -- and she sees herself as an engineer," Sandberg said.

A few tables away, Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members Andrew Moore and Nick McDonough were busy assembling a bright orange and yellow 16-inch bike, with training wheels. "I've never built a bike before," said Moore as he adjusted the handlebars. "I like to build things. This allows me to build things and the bikes go to a good cause," he concluded.

McDonough added: "For me, it's giving back by using what I'm good at. I'm good with hands-on mechanical stuff."

Bikes 4 Tykes cards 300

A Handful of Cheer: Members of Sigma Nu
fraternity add a personal touch to each bike with
handwritten gift tags.

At a table near the end of the assembly line, Sigma Nu fraternity members wrote personal greetings on the tags which adorned each bicycle which will be presented to Wabash Valley youths this holiday season.

"It started out with a simple 'happy holidays' here or 'tis the season' there," mechanical engineering student Brock Craig explained with a grin.

"As we went on, we wanted to make the greetings more personal."

The hand-written gift tag messages ran the gamut from inspirational sayings such as "It's nice to be important but it's more important to be nice" to funny "You + new bike = Chuck Norris." Some messages may not be understood by the youths, like "'Get on your bike and ride' - Queen," but Craig says "I think the parents are going to read it and have good laugh."

Once the bikes were assembled, they were moved to an area where teams inflated the tires. As they lifted each bike to a table top, Triangle fraternity members Zach Taylor and Collin Coker worked with the speed and efficiency of an Indianapolis 500 race pit crew. Okay, maybe not quite that fast.

Bikes 4 Tykes Sandberg

Candice Sandberg tightens the final
nut on one of the 481 bicycles assembled by
student teams during the annual Bikes for
Tykes event.

"It's not as easy as I thought it would be," Taylor chuckled as he wrestled a

particularly tricky valve stem. "We had another bike where the wheel was completely covered, so getting the implement in there was difficult," Coker added. The students worked together to overcome the stubborn inner tube and successfully completed the task before lifting the next bike into position.

Coker, a mechanical engineering freshman, relates, "It's an enjoyable experience and opportunity to give back to the community at the holiday time.

At the end of the assembly line, members of the human powered vehicle race team and student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering gave each bicycle a quick inspection before putting them in groups for pick up by community service agencies, church and school groups, and foster homes for deliver to designated families.

Other campus groups assisting with this year's Bikes For Tykes project came from resident halls, the American Society of Civil Engineers, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity.

"Bikes For Tykes is one of our most popular community service events. It is a great way for students to utilize their skills to help the community," said Pete Gustafson, vice president of student affairs and dean of students.