You could see the excitement in their eyes - toddlers to young teens ogling the 50 bright, shinny bicycles lined up to be given away last Saturday in Coarsegold’s Historical Village.
The children, along with parents and grandparents, gathered in front of G’ma & Pappa’s Biker Apparel shop, co-owned by Lori Brown and Mitchell Riegelhuth, organizers of the G’ma and Pappa’s and Friends Second Annual Christmas Toy Give-a-Way.
Santa roared in on a UHL side-car motorcycle, with an eight-man motorcycle escort. Santa was helped during the event by two of his hardest working elfs, Eliana Hafkey, 9, and her sister Erica, 13.
Before the raffle began, Riegelhuth called 11-year-old Savanah O’Cana to the stage. O’Cana, the daughter of Greg and Megan O’Cana of Coarsegold, has had a rough time fighting a medical condition that at times closes off her esavagus and causes severe abdominal pain. Riegelhuth told Savanah he had something special for her as a black and pink Mongoose bicycle rolled up behind her, surprising her.
“We are so grateful ... we feel blessed for G’ma and Pappa’s and their friends for this bicycle,” said Savanah’s mother Megan.
After the presentation, the raffle got under way for the 50 bikes. The free raffle tickets for the bikes were organized by gender and age so each of the 50 bikes and trikes were the perfect size for the children with the winning tickets.
With the help of a number of generous businesses and interested citizens, G’ma & Pappa’s went from giving away five bikes last year to 50 this year to lucky children. An additional 200 toys were given out by Santa after the bike raffle.
All the bikes were donated to Riegelhuth and Brown by fiends and customers of their shop and customers of Silva Ford in Madera, where Riegelhuth works as the dealership’s fleet manager.
Before the event, Wood Choppers in Oakhurst sold raffle tickets for an 18-inch Husquvarna chain saw, raising about $1,500 to help with the purchase of bikes. The chain saw was won by Marcus Lava, owner of Oakhurst Door.
“With all the people donating to this event, including about $2,000 at our shop, we were able to purchase bigger and more expensive toys this year,” Riegelhuth said.
“This could not have been done without the help of many people and businesses who donated bikes and cash,” Riegelhuth said.
Some of the major contributors to the event were Oakhurst Smog, Best Deal Tire and Wheel, Walt Bannon Drilling, Smog Doctor, Yosemite Lumber, Sierra Automotive, Redman’s Machine Shop, Underwood Insurance, Mountain Comforts, Shawdow Casters motorcycle club, and Silva Ford of Madera.
Bill and Becky Brown did a lot of work to help with this event along with Steve and Jerry Shermerhorne, Lynn White and many others it would take me forever to list them all.”
“It was just so awesome to see how well manned and polite all the children were,” Riegelhuth said. “All these parents should be real proud of their children. Lori and I received a lot of hugs and hand shakes from parents after the event, and that meant the world to us.”
“We have already started the ball rolling for next year,” Riegelhuth said. “We hope to raise $3,000 in donations to purchase toys and we are shooting for 100 donated bikes, along with providing 100 frozen turkeys for needy Mountain Area families.