Many of us have fond memories of our first bicycle. The shiny metal. The hours spent learning to balance in empty parking lots. The freedom to ride around the neighborhood. But for some families in the Carolinas, a bike is more than a toy.
“Imagine being a child recently put into foster care and waking up to a shiny new bike and helmet,” says Rebecca Peeler with York County Foster Parent Association. Catawba Nuclear Station works through United Way of York County to provide bikes to children in December, after most other corporate-sponsored toy drives end around Thanksgiving. Yet many children come into foster care the last month of the year, a time that can be difficult to transition to a new home. “For the children who have lost everyone they know and care about, right at this magical time of year, a bicycle gives them hope,” said Peeler.
Peeler’s organization is one of many that work with Duke Energy’s nuclear plants to provide bicycles to families who can't afford them. Through a long-standing tradition, Brunswick Nuclear Plant has worked with schools around Southport, N.C., for nearly 20 years to distribute bikes to students. For Robinson Nuclear Plant, the holidays provide a second opportunity to donate bikes to the local Boys and Girls Club.
While many organizations host holiday toy drives, there’s something special about giving a bicycle. Riding together is not only great exercise, but an important bonding experience for families. “Many foster parents teach the children to ride bikes, which gives them a huge sense of freedom. Other times, it allows them to ride with friends and foster siblings,” says Peeler.
This year, Duke Energy’s nuclear plants will donate more than 1,100 bikes to children living in nearby communities. “I might not be able to change the world but if I can help two or three children out, that might make the world of difference to them,” said Terry Eason II, an instrument control technician at Brunswick Nuclear Plant.
Although bikes are donated to new families each year, seeing the look on children’s faces when they receive their new ride never gets old. As Rebecca Peeler puts it, “There is nothing quite as amazing as a sparkling princess bike to a five-year-old girl!”