FEATURE: The gift of wheels

(Contributed photo)

By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times

MOREHEAD CITY — Audrey Hepburn once said, “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.”

Christmas is a time that brings out the best in people, a time when they think more of others than themselves.

Such is the case for Travis and Cassie Burt, donors of 244 bicycles for all the third-graders in the Title 1 schools of Carteret County.

So, when Chuck Lewis, former principal and coach at East Carteret High School, asked the American Legion Post 99 in Beaufort if it would be willing to help put together 125 of the bicycles and deliver them to elementary schools on Harkers Island (22 bicycles), in Smyrna (17 bicycles), Beaufort (72 bicycles) and Atlantic (14 bicycles), the answer was a quick YES!

With the involvement of the American Legion, the ECHS Honors II Animal Science and the Hospitality and Culinary Class, along with the Ann Street Methodist Men in Beaufort, the bicycles, which came in boxes, were put together.

John Owens, an American Legion Post 99 member, said, “It was a no-brainer when we were asked. Our members are big on community support, especially for children. It is a great gift of giving.”

Community service is at the very heart of the American Legion’s core beliefs and an integral part of the preamble to the constitution of the Legion, the Sons and the Auxiliary “....to inculcate a sense of individual obligation to the community, state and nation...”

After the awards ceremony, which was held at Beaufort Elementary School with all the third-grade students, 125 bicycles were loaded into covered trailers, and the trip Down East began. As the bus arrived at Smyrna Elementary School, the smiles on the children’s faces were priceless as they watched the bicycles being unloaded by the American Legion.

Laura Conway, a third-grade teacher, said, “I am totally blown away and surprised about this. How wonderful that so many people were involved to make such a difference in a child’s life. It may be the only present for some of the children.”

One little girl, when the announcement was made that EVERY child would get a bicycle, teared up and said, “Even me? I am getting a bike? For me?”

And every man, woman and child at each of the schools thanked the American Legion Post members who delivered the bicycles. The light in a child’s eyes is all that it takes to make Christmas a magical time of the year.

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