FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- For more than 30 years, the Bicycle Man's legacy has brought joy to children in Fayetteville during the holidays -- giving away bikes to those in need.
Last year, the Bicycle Man's widow announced she was ending the big giveaway, saying she was ready to retire. But now, a family friend says she's stepping up to carry on the legacy by reigniting the program.
A warehouse filled with bikes off of Washington Drive is Bernie Bogertey's new office now. Approximately 100 bikes inside are what she's collected with community support since she quit her job at Cumberland County Schools and took over the giveaway in June. Thankfully, Bogertey isn't exactly new to this; she's true to this.
Bogertey had spent much of her career at CCS helping Moses Mathis -- the Bicycle Man himself -- distribute bikes to vulnerable children in the system. She says she loved watching children light up after picking out a bike for the holidays year after year and her friend's program was too important to flame out.
I could not in good conscience just let the program dieBernie Bogertey
"At the height of the program, we were providing bicycles for 2,500 kids over the holiday season. And to have it have been that consistent and that valuable over all those years, I could not in good conscience just let the program die when I had an opportunity to step up to the plate and continue what Mr. Mathis started," Bogertey said.
The community has also been stepping up. Celso Ruiz of Hope Mills said he is volunteering as a mechanic because he loved fixing bikes as a child.
"If they really enjoy bicycles the way I do, they will have a blast," Ruiz said. "I know it's winter, it's going to be cold but when summer comes, they can enjoy the bikes, and I hope that the parents get involved with the kids riding the bicycles, too."
Bogertey says Deb Barton of Fayetteville has been collecting bikes and donations on social media.
"People still have a heart to give and this is such a joyful thing, to be able to give -- especially to children," Barton said.
Bogertey said the Bicycle Man's widow, Ann Mathis, has been mentoring her in the process -- but she still has about 400 bikes to collect before the big giveaway on the 16th. Bogertey said that if she and her volunteers don't reach their goal of 500 bikes, they'll find other presents to give to children so that no one goes empty-handed.
You can learn more about how to help by calling (910) 745-8008.