Dale Malone started his annual mission a little early this year – fear can be a strong motivator.
“I think the economy is catching back up to us again. It’s a little rougher this year, it seems,” he said. “Money is a little tighter this year.”
Malone, owner of Dukes & Boots, is on his annual quest to raise money for bicycles for area children as part of the Pettis County Community Santa program. This is the fifth year Malone has championed the cause, so plenty of local residents know that if they have not heard from him yet, they soon will.
“I usually start on Black Friday but this year I started (Monday, Nov. 23) just because the economy is a little rougher this year – I don’t know why, but it is,” he said. “Basically, at the end of the first day, I had enough money for 60 bikes. I thought that was pretty amazing.”
It most certainly is, but Malone’s goal is to top last year’s record $12,000 in donations for the bicycle campaign. At $35 per bike – a special deal Community Santa worked out with Walmart – that would be about 350 bikes for local kids. As of Friday, he was sitting at 125 bikes.
Malone’s fond memories of his first bicycle were a prime motivator in getting him involved five years ago, but there were other factors as well, including his sister-in-law, Kim Rimel, who was a Community Santa volunteer.
“We were talking about (the Community Santa program) … and she explained that it was for kids who weren’t going to have Christmas. (Community Santa) was trying to raise funds and get the public to notice them,” Malone said. “They would have a hard time and have to tell kids, ‘No.’”
Rimel explained that many children wanted bikes but funds would only allow the program to buy seven to 10 per year. Malone said, “Let me see what I can do.” Now, everyone who has had any encounter with Malone knows when he “sees what he can do,” the outcome is almost always positive.
The first year Malone was involved, almost every child who requested a bike got one. From the second year until now, every child who requested a bike through the program got one. Malone is not about to let that streak end this year.
“I believe that children don’t have a choice,” he said. “They’re kids, and they just happen to get the lay of the land … through all sorts of circumstances. … Their folks sometimes are lucky to get food on the table, let alone have any kind of Christmas. That breaks my heart a little.”
In past years, Malone has relied primarily on individual donations, with some area companies joining the effort. This year, he is reaching out to local businesses and asking that they become a program sponsor by purchasing 10 bikes – a $350 donation. Malone will include those companies in his frequent updates on Facebook so residents see the investment those firms are making in our community.
“Hopefully that will make someone else go, ‘Well, if they can do it, we can do it,’” Malone said.
He has secured commitments from 10 donors, including Ditzfeld Transfer, Marcum Hauling and Excavating, and Rick Thompson at Insurance & Benefits Group; his goal is to land 10 more sponsors. In addition, Brian Pettis and Mark Thompson at W-K Chevrolet have pledged to donate money for one bike for every car they sell this month.
A point Malone stressed was that donations of all sizes are welcome. If you can’t spare $35, donations of $5, $10, $20 will add up to buy a bike for a child in need.
“I really like doing the bikes, because everyone remembers their first bike,” Malone said. “I have yet to have anyone tell they don’t remember their first bike.”
He wants to provide that memory for more local kids, and you can help him reach his goal.
HOW TO HELP
To make a donation for bicycles for the Pettis County Community Santa program, visit Dukes & Boots on U.S. Highway 50 across from Menard’s where they will take cash, credit card payments or checks made out to Pettis County Community Santa. To make a credit card payment over the phone, call Dukes & Boots at 660-826-5500. To make a donation through PayPal, send money to [email protected] The deadline to donate is Wednesday.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.