502 new bicycles for Alabama foster children

More than 500 foster children in 22 Alabama counties are getting new bicycles for Christmas.

Phillip's Bicycles for Foster Kids provides the two-wheelers.{} The group is a non-profit based in Talladega County, named in memory of Phillip Vick.

He had three children of his own, but also served as a foster parent for 66 children before his death in 2006.

"He didn't want flowers at his funeral.{} He wanted bicycles," Phillip's sister-in-law Marcia Vick said.

"Bicycles would put a smile on a child's face a lot longer than flowers would do anybody any good."

The family was pleasantly surprised as people sent more than 100 children's bicycles for Phillip's funeral.{} They donated all of them to the St. Clair Department of Human Resources, to give to foster children.

"When they come into these homes, when they're taken from their parents for whatever reason, most only have the clothes on their back.{} These foster parents pick them up at jails, hospitals, police station, wherever the problem is," Marcia said.

"Sometimes they can't take their toys, they can't take anything, so this is our way of trying to put a smile on those child's faces.{} And to let them know that somebody loves them."

In the seven years since Phillip's death, his family collected and donated more than 3,100 new bicycles to Alabama foster children.

"It's just a good thing to let a child know that somebody loves them and cares for them," Phillip's brother Marion "Tink" Vick said.

Tink and a team of volunteers assembled 502 bicycles this week, including a special three-wheeled bike for a foster child in Calhoun County who has autism.

The group raised funds throughout the year, and as Christmas got closer, the group checked with social workers to find out the ages and genders of children in the foster programs.

Phillip's Bicycles for Foster Kids has a partnership with Huffy Bicycles, which sells them the bicycles at a discounted rate.{} Marcia Vick said the 502 bicycles cost about $21,000, and that price would probably be closer to $30,000 without the charitable discount.

Covan World-Wide Moving trucks the bicycles from California to Alabama for free.{} Volunteers unloaded the bicycle kits and assembled them at Childersburg Church of God.

Tink checked the brakes and tires on every single one before sending them off with DHR workers.{} His team also anointed each bicycle with oil and a prayer.

"Pray for the bicycle, we pray for the child, we pray for the foster family, we pray for the biological family," Marcia Vick said.

"We pray that God put somebody in their life to tell them about Jesus and let them know that Jesus loves them."

Tink Vick said it takes a special person to be a foster parent.{} He said he doesn't think he would be able to take care of children and then have to give them up.

"Phillip said you've got to be able to do that for it to work.{} He loved his children.{} They climbed all over him.{} They loved him too." Tink said.

Ann Bentley picked up 15 bicycles Wednesday morning to take to children in foster care in Etowah County.

This is an awesome organization and we're very grateful." Bentley said.

"A bike brings joy.{} It's awesome for our foster kids to have a bike.{} It's something to enjoy and a sense of normalcy," she said.

For Blount County DHR case worker Carrie Morrison, it's one of the favorite facets of her job.

"Knowing that I get to be a part of this is just such a huge thing," Morrison said.

"I just have such a heavy heart to help children and I think that it's just such a wonderful thing.{} I know it means more to me than anything and makes the holidays worth it."

Marcia Vick said the goal is to someday provide a bicycle for every foster child in the state.

"We start in January, right after we get these done, we start already for next year.{} We raise money all year long," Marcia said.

"I'm tired but I feel good."

For more information about Phillip's Bicycles for Foster Kids, visit their web site here.