DANSVILLE – A man’s passion for fitness, health and well-being led him down a road of generosity and glee as he was able to deliver 23 bikes to families through donations. New bikes were delivered to youngsters this Christmas, courtesy of a small Facebook message and a lot of love from local father, cyclist, coach, and school social worker Steve French.
French, 50, or “Frenchie,” a much beloved outstanding member of the Dansville community and racer with the Once Again Nut Butter multi-sport race team, says that the bike giveaway project began as a whim on social media in mid December but blew up when a friend gave him a free bike, and he decided to donate it to a local kid. He simply told the kids to write an essay on why they should be the one to get the bike.
“The essays brought tears to my eyes, and I realized I couldn’t give away just one bike,” smiled French, his eyes bright with excitement. “I put out a little message on my Facebook asking my friends to donate bikes, if they could. In all, I wound up giving away 23 bikes, and made the kids promise to wear a helmet.”
French said that what really blows him away is how generous the kids were in their requests.
“Of all the essays I read, only two were asking for the bike for themselves,” said French. “The rest wanted to give the bikes away to their brothers and sisters, to their parents, so that they could ride together. I am so fortunate to be surrounded by so many great kids and such good friends.”
French remembered some of the essays he read and who the kids wanted the bikes to go to.
“One girl said she wanted it for her dad, who is her hero and has back and heart problems, and cycling is one of the only things he can do with her anymore,” said French. “He didn’t have a bike, and they used to have special ‘daddy day outs.’ She wanted the bike so they could do daddy day outs again.”
Other kids wanted the bikes for siblings who had been through a rough time or for their whole families who had just suffered a loss. One youngster said his dog Jasmine passed away recently and he wanted his whole family to be able to ride and “get their mine off of her” whenever they wanted.
“That’s what blows my mind about these kids, it’s how generous they are,” said French. “The less they have growing up, the more they share things with me and each other.”
French added with a smile that he’s not quite done with the project yet, as he still has a few bikes left. He says anyone who wants to can drop off functional bikes at Ellis B. Hyde Elementary School, 280 Main Street in Dansville, or contact him on his Facebook page. He says he is grateful for the generosity of his friends, neighbors, and strangers, and will never turn away a free bike.
French said that his friend and owner of the Cyclepath bike shop in Geneseo, Mike Duke, even went so far as to assemble one good bike from the parts of two broken ones.
“I was rewarded in so many ways for this,” said French. “I got to give the bikes to kids, read some really touching essays by amazing kids, and have friends give me bikes, with some of whom I haven’t had contact for a long time.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Steve French showing his passion for fitness. (Photo/ Facebook)