By Stephanie R. Jones
There could be traffic jams on sidewalks and streets in Metro Jackson on Christmas morning thanks to the state’s retired NFL players.
For the third year, the MS Retired Players Association in partnership with the group Reading on Wheels handed out 500 free children’s bicycles during their annual Celebrity Bike Give Away. The group gathered Saturday morning at Smith Wills Stadium to load the bikes in cars, greet people and just have a fun time. Jackson police officer Julianna Chisholm, who was at last year’s event and picked up two bikes this year, said the giveaway was the best yet. In addition to bikes, Chisholm said there were more giveaway items.
“They had a lot more items this year” such as toys and stuffed animals, she said. “People even came from out of state this time.” The two she picked up were for children of families she met on her police beat. During the give away a local DJ played music and broadcasted live while the Protégé Allstars dance troupe performed. The troupe is comprised of girls ages 5 to 18, said director Charey Robinson, whose uncle is Players Association president Vernon Perry.
Murray High School cheerleaders were also present. Perry, who is from Jackson, played at Jackson State University and went on to play with the NFL’s Houston Oilers. “We want to make sure kids who might not ordinarily get gifts for Christmas get something,” Perry said. He added the bikes are also good because they are a way for kids to get exercise that leads to healthier lives, noting that physical education isn’t a part of the curriculum in many schools and the prevalence now of electronic devices that hold children’s attention. “Save a kid, save a life, that’s my motto,” Perry said.
The group raised funds to purchase the bikes from Walmart. As in previous years Walmart manager Billy Tingle was on hand to help coordinate the delivery. Alpha Robinson is the head of Reading on Wheels, which has assisted in the bike giveaway every year as a winter project. She said in the summer the organization sponsors a feeding program. “This year we fed about 35,000 children,” Robinson said. The group also provides private tutoring. To ensure bikers ride safely, the Department of Rehabilitation provided helmets to all who received bikes.
Stephanie R. Jones can be reached at email@example.com or (601) 454-0372.