Ten kids got a pre-holiday surprise on Tuesday when, after already enjoying a tour of Ann Arbor Fire Station 1 and a pizza party, they received shiny, new bicycles to call their own.
After receiving referrals of 10 kids in need from The Salvation Army, the Ann Arbor Fire Department invited them and their families out for a tour of the station and a meal from Cottage Inn.
And that's where the surprise came in.
Lined up behind one of the firetrucks were 10 brand new bikes. After yelling, "Move that truck!" the kids saw their new bikes for the first time.
At first, many weren't sure what to do. They looked to their parents in confusion.
"That's yours," someone said to the group. And suddenly they took off, each one looking to find their bike, marked with their name.
Melissa Cretsinger, AAFD management assistant, said the fire department raises up to $2,000 a year for the Bikes for Tykes event.
The families provided Two Wheel Tango with the ages and approximate heights of the children — ages 4 to 10 — so that the bikes would be the perfect fit. The store also included helmets, so that the kids would be safe while riding.
Ann Arbor resident Shaka Wilson's sons Nicklas and Christopher Pike both received bikes Tuesday. Wilson said she's grateful for the Bikes for Tykes program.
"It took a lot of pressure off me," she said, adding Christmas presents were difficult to come by this year, especially with another son, Zion, on the way.
While Nicklas, 8, took his new wheels for a spin, Christopher, 7, got some help from a firefighter because he hasn't quite gotten the knack for riding yet.
"Times are hard," Wilson said. "I'm very, very grateful."
Danielle Larson said her daughter Alexandra, 10, was excited enough about the trip to the fire station to see it up close and meet the firefighters. Getting the new bike (in purple, her favorite) was a great bonus.
Larson also was happy the Two Wheel Tango staff was on hand to make sure the bikes and helmets all fit properly. "It's perfect," Alexandra said.
Bikes for Tykes is Two Wheel Tango co-owner Dennis Pontius' favorite event of the year. The shop has been participating for about five years, and he said it's a great way to give back.
"You know these kids appreciate it," he says, motioning to a room full of smiling and kids speeding through the room on their new bikes.
Shavaughn Thomas' children had to leave their old bikes behind when they moved to Ann Arbor from Chicago in September to care for Thomas' mother. The kids couldn't take the bikes on the train.
Miyami, 7, and Makell, 4, were thrilled with the surprise. "I knew it was going to be mine even when I didn't see my name on it," Miyami said. Her bike and and helmet were both purple — her favorite color.
The kids even wanted to ride their bikes homes.
"Just to see the smiles on their faces is incredible," Thomas said. "I can't believe all this. It's such a huge blessing."
Julie Baker is a news producer at AnnArbor.com.