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December 21, 2011

Charity shots: IUS basketball team presents 25 needy kids with new bikes

NEW ALBANY — With a red and white stocking cap on his head, Indiana University Southeast men’s basketball coach Wiley Brown spoke to 25 children about one of his favorite Christmas gifts of his youth — a brand new bicycle.

“I’m so old, they had five speeds back in the day,” Brown said.

The children who had gathered at Griffin Street Recreation Center listened attentively as Brown went on to stress to them how important it is to be responsible.

He said they should be good stewards of their possessions, and always be as good at giving as they are receiving. He told them they would soon better understand his message, but it took an announcement from New Albany-Floyd County Parks  Department Recreation Director Kathy Wilkerson for the kids to understand what was happening.

“Christmas has come early,” Wilkerson proclaimed.

IU Southeast players wheeled out new bicycles for each of the children, a free gift courtesy of a private donor that Brown said wished to remain anonymous.

The kids were chosen by the parks department, as the bikes were given to children who are in need but are also solid students, NA-FC Parks Superintendent Roger Jeffers said.

The basketball team, with the help of one its sponsors in Coca Cola, was able to secure the donation. Jeffers said kids that might not have received much for Christmas this year now have something to look forward to.

“The good part is we’re helping 25 kids have a good Christmas, the bad part is there are more that need help,” he said.

The parks department will provide helmets and bike locks to the children. Jeffers said the staff hopes to impress upon the children pride in their possessions so they maintain what has been given to them.

This was the first year for the bike giveaway at IU Southeast, though Brown said he hopes to continue the program annually. He participated in a similar charity work when he played for the University of Louisville in the 1980s.

“I work for a great university ... we all try to make a difference in the community,” Brown said.

His team learned a valuable lesson in what it means to give back to people by participating in the event, he continued.

“Our smiles are just as big as the one’s receiving the bikes,” Brown said.

Tina Becker flashed a pretty big smile herself as she saw her daughter climb onto her new bike. She called the work of the team and private donor an “act of Christ.”

“I’m overwhelmed that somebody just would donate money to all these children and give them a gift they might not have gotten otherwise,” Becker said.

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