Nat’s Outdoor Sports Celebrates 29 Years of Providing Wheels of Happiness to Kids in Need.

by | Nov 2023

THE STUB of a royal blue crayon protruded from his fist. It was half-used and missing the Crayola wrapper. Right there in the middle of the glossy page was the red and black bicycle he’d been dreaming about for months. After scribbling three circles around the picture, he rolled up the magazine and shoved it inside the back pocket of his jeans. 

Slipping into another daydream, he imagined buckling his safety helmet and tugging on a pair of knee pads so he could sail free as an eagle on his very own bicycle. With the holidays right around the corner and the promise of presents from Santa Claus, it was the perfect time to ask — no, beg — one more time. He ascended the stairs, the stiff magazine pressed against his back. “Mom, look what came in the mail today.” Opening the crinkled, dog-eared page, he offered his best snaggle-toothed grin. “It’s a bike like the one I’ve been telling you about. Remember?” 

He begged and begged, but she said, “Now you know we don’t have extra money in our budget.” When tears pooled in her eyes, he felt simply awful, especially when he noticed how weary she looked from waiting tables at the diner. “I’m working extra hours as it is, but it’s all I can do to pay the rent and put food on our table. I’d like to buy you a bike, but it’s impossible.” She kissed him gently on the head. “Maybe next year, son.” 

That’s a story that may be true for several families, but that’s where Nat’s Outdoor Sports steps in.. Nat’s Bikes for Kids program started 29 years ago, and since then, 5,000 children have received bikes. Nat’s accepts gently used bikes from the community the first week of November and makes any necessary repairs to them. In the past, donated bikes were also supplemented with new ones. This program runs through Dec. 10, and the bikes are generally distributed the week before Christmas. 

“We accept donations for all sizes of bikes, from kids just learning to ride to adult-sized bikes for teenagers. After Nat’s repairs and rebuilds the bikes, the Bowling Green Jaycees work with local groups to distribute them. Al Kaelin, with the Jaycees, has been coordinating this process for several years. We have also worked alongside the Boys and Girls Club, Baron River Area Safe Space, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, and local elementary school resource centers,” said Lisa Martens. “We also have business sponsors that support this program. Recent sponsors include Owl’s Head Alloys, Independence Bank, Scott Waste, and our local McDonald’s. Advertising sponsors include WUHU 107 and WNKY. This program would not be possible without the help of these sponsors.” 

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, bicycles disappeared from store shelves in record numbers. “There were a couple of years we couldn’t make it happen because of the shortage of bikes, but last year, we were excited to bring this program back to our community! We love putting a smile on these kids’ faces!” 

Nat’s Outdoor Sports said, “We have a passion for a life outdoors and the gear we use. We strive for perfection and unmatched customer service. If it can be hiked, biked, climbed, or paddled, we want to help you achieve your goals. Whenever possible, we support the community that has so graciously supported us since 1973.” 

So, whatever happened to the boy who so desperately longed for a bike of his own? 

Nat’s Outdoor Sports received this letter from a recipient: 

“I got my first bike through this program when I was 7 years old. I remember everything about that day and what my bike looked like. I lived in poverty most of my childhood until I got put into foster care when I was 11. Our Christmas presents came through donations like this, and I can’t tell you how much it means. I’m now 32 years old, have three children of my own, and am the first in my family to graduate from college. I can remember leaving my house and riding my bike when my parents were fighting and I needed to get away. In the rain, snow, or summer heat, you could find me riding. It’s one of my fondest memories. There is so much more I could say, but I will leave it at this: for a local business to be doing this, and doing it for 25 years straight, is something to be proud of. I would just like to say thank you!” GN 

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