For the past 12 years, Variety the Children’s Charity of North Texas has been presenting underprivileged youth from across North Texas with a special gift prior to their summer vacation. This gift is that of a brand new bicycle of their very own.

The overwhelming majority of the more than 1,200 children that have participated in this program since its inception had never owned a bicycle of their own. Others had never experienced the thrill of receiving a brand new bike.

Children are selected by various partner agencies that Variety works with such as: Boys & Girls Clubs, school districts and other community programs. The children are selected based upon financial need, school performance, citizenship and other factors.

This year’s program entailed selected children and their families arriving at a local Cinemark movie theatre. Upon arrival, children were checked in for the day’s events starting off with breakfast for themselves and their families. They were then provided with a commemorative t-shirt of the event, and directed to one of the theatres auditoriums or a face painting area where local volunteers did their best to create one of a kind masterpieces for each child.

All the while, there was not a bike to be seen.

Once in the theatre, the selected children and their families enjoyed a first-run, major motion picture, many for the first time.

According to Variety’s executive director, Lawrence Hood, “Once the film starts, the real magic of the day begins. Approximately 15 to 20 minutes into the film, all volunteers rush back to the front of the theatre to start off loading the bikes from the holding area and setting up a true ‘sea of bikes’ in the lobby.”

At the conclusion of the film, children make the mad dash back to the front of the theatre to stand next to their very own bicycle. In addition to the bike, Variety provides each child with a helmet, lock and chain. This year children even received a special backpack to hold all the goods.

The funds received from the Texas Chapter of Speedway Charities were used to add a new element to the event. In addition to selecting their traditional recipients, Variety included children with disabilities as honorees. These children live with minor disabilities that, as one mother put it, kept them “behind others their age in their riding skills.”

Kimberely, whose 10 and seven-year-old son’s are both on the autism scale, told Variety that just one day after taking part in the program, “they had a blast…The youngest had never ridden without training wheels and after this morning, he now knows how! Our eldest has never ridden a big bike with gears and hand brakes, and he was successful too! They had so much fun…and we thank you for making them feel special, and giving them confidence to aspire to new heights.”

Thanks to Variety, and the funds received from Speedway Children’s Charity, they are doing just that.

Variety the Children’s Charity of North Texas is committed to promoting and protecting the health and well-being of children all across North Texas. Something it has been doing since 1935. For more information about Variety in Texas, please visit www.varietynorthtexas.org. If you visit the “News & Notes” section you can photos from the event, a news story about the 2008 event and even watch a video of the 2007 Bikes for Kids program.

There are over 25 Variety programs across the country. To see if there is a program in your service area, please visit www.usvariety.org.