In 2006, cycling buddies Brian Miner and Tim House took their adventures from the road to the workshop and assembled 400 bikes for needy children in Akron.
The bikes served as Christmas gifts for kids who might not be getting a lot for the holidays.
From there, the duo's venture — Elves & More of Northeast Ohio — grew each year, and this year, the two sent out more than 1,000 bikes with the help of about 350 volunteers this past weekend. It took the group about three hours to complete the bikes.
"The thing about our organization is that we're 100 percent volunteer," said Miner, a North Canton resident. "Tim and I, our board of directors, we do this for the love of what we're doing, for the smiles on the kids' faces."
Once the group assembles the bikes, they deliver them to every child in a specific neighborhood, and that location is kept a secret up until the trucks arrive and the volunteers start unloading the bikes and distributing them in the streets.
Miner said the organization started after he learned about a man in Texas who had given 15,000 bikes to needy children. In a magazine article, the man talked about seeing two teenagers standing off to the side as the bikes were distributed around them. The man asked why they weren't taking part in the excitement, and, according to Miner, they answered back: "Our entire life we’ve never had a brand new gift on Christmas. We’ll save these for Christmas morning.”
"It struck me that could be any kid in Northeast Ohio," Miner said.
Miner said the number of gifts increases each year, as does the number of volunteers. There's such an overwhelming desire to help that he has to shut down the volunteer list after about a week. Those wishing to volunteer can sign up on the Elves & More website in November. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be put on the email distribution list.
Miner said the organization is unique because you can see your contribution through from start to finish. You can purchase a bicycle, help assemble that bicycle, then deliver it to a child in need.
"I think people have gotten tired of sending a check to an organization and not really knowing where it goes to, but here it’s extremely obvious," he said.
After doing this for several years, Miner recalled one moment in particular that touched him. He said while delivering bikes, he noticed a man tearing up at the sight of a handful of semi-trucks and caravan of volunteer vehicles rolling through his neighborhood.
"At that point we hadn’t done anything yet," Miner said. "But he was so moved and all he said was, 'You have no idea what this means to this community.' It could have been anything, but the fact was we were there doing something."