COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – Columbus entrepreneur Chester Jackson continued his annual tradition of giving out bicycles to local children for the fifth year on Saturday.
For the fifth year in a row, East Coast Body Shop on Farr Road in Columbus helped fulfill Christmas wishes with their free bike giveaway for children of all ages.
This year, volunteers made it a priority to help one family left devastated after last month's apartment fire off Oakley Drive destroyed everything they had.
"When your child is telling you they want to go home because they want their toys, and you don't know how to explain to them that they can't - it's hard," said Daphne Johnson, whose family lost their apartment in the fire.
This is a joyous moment for Daphne and Curtis Johnson, as they try to get things as back to normal for their boys Camar, King, and Ty.
"It's a big pat on the back. It makes me happy to see them smile and that's the only thing that matters: staying a child at heart," Curtis Johnson said.
The Johnsons have found a new home, and thank those helping give away the bikes for putting a smile on the kids' faces.
"We've been blessed. And like he said, we're rebuilding, and people have been helping me out a lot and I'm grateful, thankful for that," Daphne Johnson said.
Seeing children smile is the ultimate reward for Chester Jackson, the heart and soul of this operation.
"No, this is the beginning. There's a child out there that has never had a bike in their life. But they left here with a bike, and I retain that smile," says Chester Jackson, Owner of East Coast Body Shop
The total number of bikes this year given away was 995. Jackson thanks other community organizations for gathering the bikes all year long.
"Total strangers...total strangers. Because, they see what a child needs. They need love, they need joy, they need someone to just reach out and say, 'Look, I love you.' It makes a difference," Jackson said.
Jackson says he hopes to have more bikes next year to make more Christmas wishes come true.