BEAUMONT, Texas — More than a thousand children will be able to check a few items off their wish list after the annual Bicycles and Bibles event at the Ford Park Arena.
The Wayne Reaud family and nearly 100 volunteers helped make the charitable donations possible on Saturday. The main attractions were bikes, bibles and full meals. Children also received a bag of toys, a coat and complimentary food from restaurants in the Beaumont area.
The COVID-19 pandemic wasn’t able to stop the Reaud Foundation’s 21-year tradition of giving back to the Southeast Texas community.
"Several of us got together and worked out a way that we could do it through a drive thru. It takes away from the personal touch we’re used to, over the last 20 years, but 1,000 kids today are going to get over $2,500 worth of merchandise,” said Jon Reaud, executive director of the Reaud Foundation.
With the help of the Southeast Texas Food Bank, founder and president Wayne Reaud figured out a way to put together at least 1,000 Christmas dinners that would satisfy a family of six this year.
The items are free to many children but not all. In order to receive the donation items, someone has to nominate or invite a child to the event.
One grandmother from Orange raising three grandchildren appreciated that someone thought about her family.
"Oh, I was so grateful for, her name was Heather, her putting my grandbaby’s name in this because we were not even aware of it," Helen Steverson said. "I’m very grateful to her. She’s been very helpful to us since the hurricane."
Steverson's neighbor attended the drive-thru donation as well. The Orange family of nine lives under the roof of parents Amanda and Patrick Moody. Amanda said she feels “blessed to be able to have an opportunity to have help like this with COVID and everything going on.”
Most years, the supplies are gone after families like these stop by to get their goods and food, according to Jon.
If supplies are left over from the events, the rest of the bikes, food, coats and more will get delivered to local organizations such as the Girls' Haven Inc., Boys' Haven of America Inc., and Beaumont's Buckner International.
“It’s not just putting a bike in the car. It’s wishing them a Merry Christmas, praying with that family,” Jon said.
In 1999, Wayne decided he wanted to give back to the community. Jon says his brother and Southeast Texas lawyer started praying about the idea. While praying, Wayne kept running across the scripture, "if you really love me, feed my sheep," paraphrased from the bible's John 21:17. The Reaud Foundation has hosted the Bicycles and Bibles event ever since with a focus on feeding the community.
“Wayne’s philosophy is that he’s got to feed the hurting people in this community,” Jon said.
The family and volunteers said they’re anticipating on having the annual event again next year.
“These volunteers are putting their health on the line to make Christmas special for these kids, but my family just didn’t want a Christmas to go by without there being a Bikes and Bibles,” Jon said.
COVID-19 has changed the way just about everyone goes about with their daily lives. Jon said the pandemic has switched the organization's method of operations as well.
The Reaud Foundation is used to seeing nearly 400 volunteers helping those who need it most at Ford Park. Due to COVD-19 this year, the foundation saw roughly 75 volunteers, most of whom were outside.
Despite the shortage, the drive flowed smoothly with volunteers quickly loading the trunks and back seats of cars with goods and toys.
“We’ve got people all over this country that have the ability to do what we’re doing," Jon said. "So, I’m hoping that if they see this that they may feed 100 people children. They may try to give away 100 bikes. They may try to feed 1,000 people, but it can be done.”