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Father and son give bikes to disadvantaged youth

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Photo/ Richard Irby Fulton County residents Chris and Ricky Sims recently put together nine new bicycles which were given away at a Dec. 15 Christmas Party at American Legion Post 336 in Sharp County. Ricky Sims is a long-time member of the post, and has been buying bicycles to give to disadvantaged youth for about 15 years. [Order this photo]
Christmas is fast approaching but no lighted tree or other holiday decorations were in sight at Rick and Chris Sims' home near the Fulton and Baxter County line.

But the front room shows the Sims' are more like elves than Scrooges. There are five brand new assembled bikes lined up near the fireplace, the father and son are assembling another one and three unopened bike boxes line the wall waiting for assembly.

"My son, Christopher, got all excited when I gave him a new bicycle when he was old enough to ride one, and he told me he wished all kids could have a new bike," Rick Sims explained, describing how, years ago, he got the idea, to start giving new bicycles to disadvantaged kids.

Chris' pride in that new bike brought back memories of his own childhood. Sims' mother raised four children under difficult circumstances.

"I always wanted a new bicycle and my mom had to explain that we couldn't afford it," Sims said.

While attending a Christmas party at American Legion Post 336, for children in the Williford-Hardy area, Sims watched as post members drew names and handed out nice Christmas gifts to excited kids. But he noticed bicycles were not among the prizes.

"I said, 'Well, here's how I can help,' and I started buying bicycles to give away at the American Legion Christmas party," Sims said.

"I've been doing it about since he started doing it, helping put the bikes together," Chris Sims, a 17 year old Viola High School Senior, remembered. It turns out there is a lot more to the Sims' bicycle giveaways than just assembling them. "I got my hardship (drivers) license when I was 14 to drive my dad around," Chris said. His father, a Viet Nam veteran, is legally blind. "That includes going to Black Friday sales (after Thanksgiving) to buy as many bikes as we can, when they are on sale."

"We're normally there all night long," Rick said. "They used to begin the bike sale about four o'clock in the morning. We'd have to get there early to be in line near the crates (of bikes). When the sales start, people are like piranhas. They crowd around and start grabbing."

"It's chaotic," is how Chris describes years of Black Friday bike purchase excursions. But he and his dad have gotten good at it. This year, aided by Chris' girlfriend, Izaeella Weets, they were able to come away with the nine bikes they had money for this year.

"We try to save up money during the year to do this," Chris said.

"We buy as many as we can afford," Rick adds. "Our money goes to bikes, so we eat a lot of Hamburger Helper this time of the year," he laughs.

"I just sat a wheel in front of you," Chris tells his dad as they sit on the living room floor assembling bikes.

Rick fishes around and finds the parts he needs to attach training wheels to the metal piece that supports them.

Rick's vision was impaired during his tour in Viet Nam, and has gotten worse and worse over the years. But blindness hasn't stopped him from staying active. He regularly walks to the mailbox, helps mow the lawn, directs his son on home improvement projects and assembles bicycles.

The father and son met their deadline to have bikes assembled and ready to give away at the American Legion Christmas party on Saturday, Dec. 15.

"I don't ever get tired of it. I like it," Chris said of the yearly bicycle challenge. "When they have have the drawing, they let me call out the names as they draw them, and I get to see how happy kids are to get the bikes and other presents."

That gratitude is pay enough for the father and son.

"Young man came up and hugged me the other day," Rick said. "He was about 21 or 22 and thanked me for a bicycle he got. He said his family was pretty hard off and there was no way they could ever get him a bike, and he wanted to thank me for it."

"The Sims have done a lot for the post for many years," Adjudant Charles Greenwell told The News, noting that Rick Sims currently serves as the post's Service Officer, helping veterans.

In November, the American Legion presented Chris with a Certificate of Appreciation for Outstanding Service, to recognize the dedication he has shown since he was a little boy.

"I told them (the American Legion) that I would always try to continue with the bicycles, even after my father was gone," Chris said.

"That touched my heart," Rick added. "That's what it's all about. It's not about ourselves. It's about helping someone else, helping kids in need have a good Christmas."

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Chris and Ricky Sims--you are my heroes. Thanks for what you are doing and what you have done.

-- Posted by conventional1 on Fri, Dec 21, 2012, at 10:34 AM

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