Each year the police give out brand new or gently used bikes from donors such as the Pittsburgh Police Foundation, Maris G. Mangulis, P.E. of CH2M Hill Inc. and Target.
Scalise said, starting last year, children ages 6-12 were asked to, depending on their age, draw or write an 150 word or more essay on a specific theme. This year’s theme was, “What does a Police Officer mean to you?” The more than 100 bike winners were selected from amongst 300-400 essay submissions. Along with the bikes, the kids also received bicycle safety helmets that were donated by UPMC Children’s Hospital and Kohl’s Cares Foundation, and they were properly fitted for both by technicians from R.E.I. Outfitters and Performance Bikes.
“This is a rewarding and worthwhile experience. It’s nice that our officers take the time to plan, organize and implement this program. We’ve been doing it for a number of years. It’s a way of giving back to the community,” said Acting Pittsburgh Police Chief Regina McDonald. “I’m proud of the officers and Diane (Richard, public information officer) and all those who participate in this, because they’re taking time from their normal duties and responsibilities, as well as their personal time to do it.”
Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto also made a special appearance at the event, congratulating the students and the police on their efforts.
Bike recipient Amri Johnson, 11, from Pittsburgh Dilworth PreK-5 School, said it felt good to receive a bike. “I like to ride bikes and I see policemen riding their bikes and helping people.” When asked what police officers mean to her, she said, “I feel they are protectors and they show good love to people. And they give us care and show that they help people.”
Johnson’s stepfather, Roberto Williams, said it was a positive event.
When asked his thoughts on the event, especially during a time when the relationship between the police and some in the Black community is somewhat stressed, Williams, of Larimer, said he wasn’t concerned with that. “I don’t really think the police image is that much tarnished. I don’t look at it in that regard. Everybody has their different opinions. At the end of the day, they do their job. For the most part, they’re here for the people, protecting and serving.”
Scalise, who said “You can’t put an event on yourself,” wanted to make sure a special thanks was expressed to Target, who provided and grilled hot dogs; the family of the late retired Pittsburgh Police Sgt. Carl Metz who provided refreshments; and the other sponsors such as Allegheny County Safe Kids, Allegheny County Emergency Services, the Allegheny County Camp Cadet program, Ibis Tek, Taylor Rental, and the City of Pittsburgh Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.