A year ago, a small but treasured piece of Arianna Schifano’s childhood was snatched away in the middle of the night – her bicycle.
Arianna, 12, lives in a second-story apartment at Serna Village, a community for families transitioning out of homelessness. Rather than struggle to lug her bike up a steep flight of stairs, Arianna parked it beneath the building’s stairwell.
“People borrowed it sometimes,” she recalled, “but they always brought it back.”
One night the bike was not returned, and the theft punched a giant hole in Arianna’s life. She can no longer help out her mom by bicycling to school, and she misses the joy of gliding around the neighborhood, her long hair streaming behind her.
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“I always liked to go really fast and feel the wind blowing on my face,” she said. “It makes me feel like I could do anything in the world and not get judged.”
The folks who run Serna Village are asking Book of Dreams readers to help purchase 25 bikes for children like Arianna. More than 250 people, including 175 children, live in the community on the former McClellan Air Force Base. Many families are struggling to reunify and strengthen bonds, and a bicycle helps children fit in and feel a sense of stability.
“It also gets kids out of the house and away from television and video games,” said Tony Parker, a youth development coach who helps run an after-school program at Serna Village. “And they get some exercise and fresh air.”
Parker runs a weekly Bike Club that organizes group rides and also teaches kids how to maintain their own bikes. By learning to change tires, cope with balky chains and handle other fixes, “the kids feel they’ve accomplished something and value the bikes more,” Parker said.
Parker asked children anxious for a bicycle to write essays describing what two wheels, a seat and set of handlebars would mean to them. Britnee Losey, 16, said having a bike “would be a blessing.”
“It could help me with all the errands for my mom,” who is disabled and does not own a car, Losey said. “And I could ride it to the library, where I like to study because it’s quiet.”
In a separate initiative, 22 members of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Bike Unit hope Book of Dreams readers will help them spread their love of pedaling to deserving kids this holiday season.
Sgt. Robert Smith said the unit started a nonprofit organization four years ago to promote bike safety and encourage cycling. Initial efforts focused on distributing helmets and hosting bike-related events, but now the unit hopes to actually put 50 kids – from toddlers to teens – on their own bikes. Bike GUYS, a shop in El Dorado Hills, is helping out with discounted pricing.
“I grew up with bikes, and it was a great escape from your day-to-day routine,” Smith said. “It just give kids a little bit of liberty, and it gives them something to invest their time in – rather than getting in trouble.”
Needed: Funds to purchase bikes for children at Serna Center and for the Sacramento Sheriff’s Bike Unit.
Cost: Bikes for Serna center: $3,500; bikes for Sheriff’s Bike Unit: $7,200.
Questions about Book of Dreams? Please call (916) 556-5667.
2014 BOOK OF DREAMS
For more than 25 years, The Sacramento Bee’s Book of Dreams has helped people and organizations in our community realize their dreams. Their needs can be as simple as a pair of shoes for someone who is homeless; holiday baskets for low-income families or a shiny, new bike for a child. Whatever the dream, you can help by making a donation today.
All donations are tax deductible and none of the money received will be used for administrative costs. The Book of Dreams fund is administered by the Sacramento Region Community Foundation. If you donate online, the Region Foundation will appear on your statement.
If you have additional questions, please call the Book of Dreams line at (916) 556-5667. Donations will be accepted through Jan. 16.
* To claim a tax deduction for 2014, all donations must be postmarked by Dec. 31. All contributions are tax-deductible and none of the money received will be spent on administrative costs. Partial contributions are welcome on any item. In cases where more money is received than requested for a given need, the excess will be applied to meeting the unfulﬁlled needs in this Book of Dreams. Funds donated in excess of needs listed in this book will fulﬁll wishes received but not published and will be donated to social service agencies beneﬁting children at risk. The Sacramento Bee has veriﬁed the accuracy of the facts in each of these cases and we believe them to be bona ﬁde cases of need. However, The Sacramento Bee makes no claim, implied or otherwise, concerning their validity beyond the statement of these facts.