In the culmination of a joint effort between three local organizations, nearly two dozen bikes were donated to five local veterans and their families Saturday.
Members of the Rotary Club of Santa Clarita, Elks Lodge No. 2379 and Harry Bell Foundation came together to help these families hit especially hard by the pandemic.
“It was brought to my attention that there were five specific families, I believe there were like nine children, who really had some hardships — so we wanted to act quickly,” Rotary Club President Glenn Terry said in a previous Signal interview.
These three organizations collected a total of $2,000 worth of Visa gift cards to split among the families, with Rotarians then going a step further to gather other household items, including the bikes, to donate.
Rotarians then fixed and cleaned the bikes before making the donation at the Bike Exchange Saturday, as some were new, and others were older.
In total, 23 bikes were donated by Terry, other Rotary Club members, and Diane Felix and Amy Tate of the Glendale Police Department, though one bike, in particular, had a special story, as this wasn’t the first time it was being handed down.
‘A beautiful silver bike’
Griffin Downs, 12, had been gifted his very first bike for his eighth birthday by his parents.
“We had saved up to get him this beautiful bike,” said Griffin’s father, Jason Downs, who’s also a Rotarian. “And he loved it.”
Griffin had the bike for about a month, keeping it on the front porch of his Valencia home behind a gate.
“We always kept our bikes on our porch because we would ride our bikes to school every morning,” Griffin added. “And one morning, the bike was just gone.”
A friend of the family posted about the bike on Facebook, calling for people to be on the lookout and saying, “This little boy was heartbroken over it being taken,” according to Jason Downs.
“People responded, understandably, in a very kind way, but one gentleman, in particular, said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a bike in my garage that belonged to my son that he’s outgrown, and we’d love to give it to him,’” Downs recalled.
Those good Samaritans were Santa Clarita residents Nick and Tara Cerulle. Nick said he simply thought of it as a random act of kindness, asking only that if Griffin ever had the chance to help a little boy in need one day, he would pay it forward.
Four years later, Griffin had outgrown the silver bike, given to him with a generous heart, quickly finding his own perfect opportunity to share it with another.
Paying it forward
“My son took his bike out and waited to see who would show up and who would get the bike,” Downs said of Saturday’s Bike Exchange. “This little boy was 8 years old, … and as soon as he walked in, he eyeballed that silver bike. … So (Griffin) got to hand it off and watch him ride around the parking lot. It was great.”
Before leaving, Griffin told the bike’s new owner the same thing Cerulle had told him: Be sure to pay it forward to someone else one day.
“It felt really good,” Griffin added. “That kid was so happy to get that bike, and it was nice to see it put to use again.”
For Downs, it was a proud father moment. “I know I’m biased, obviously, but I just think he’s a great kid, and he’s turning into a fine young man. I feel like this was an important full-circle moment, and I’m happy that we were able to stay true to our word to the good Samaritan.”
Cerulle, too, was happy to hear that Griffin had stayed true to his promise.
“That’s awesome,” Cerulle said of the donation. “I’m glad he was able to donate to somebody else. I’m glad it worked out for him.”