Delivering happiness, one bike at a time

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published December 21, 2017

  A child receives a bike as part of a program put on  annually through the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores.

A child receives a bike as part of a program put on annually through the Optimist Club of St. Clair Shores.

Photo provided by Matt Barranca

 Santa Claus delivers a bike to a  St. Clair Shores child Dec. 17.

Santa Claus delivers a bike to a St. Clair Shores child Dec. 17.

Photo provided by Matt Barranca

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Christmas came early for some children in St. Clair Shores when Santa Claus stopped by with some new wheels.

The annual Santa Bike Delivery from the St. Clair Shores Optimist Club surprised 14 children throughout the city with bicycles Dec. 17.

This is the second year that Lakeview High School English teacher Matt Barranca has helped to put on the show by donning the red suit.

“The three St. Clair Shores school districts talk to their families and come up with a list of names of families that might be able to use a bike for their kids,” he said. “The Optimist Club funds the purchase of the bikes, and Santa shows up  ... on families’ doorsteps and knocks on the door and surprises the kids with a bike.”

One of those families included Frank Kasjan, a 12-year-old at Jefferson Middle School. His mother, Teresa Kasjan, said that they were very excited because Frank is so tall and he was able to get a bike “just perfect for him.”

“I did not tell him who’s coming. I just told him, ‘Somebody’s coming today — a special guest, very popular,’” Teresa Kasjan said. “They were very excited, and when they saw Santa, they didn’t know what to do.”

Along with the bike for her son, Kasjan said that her 10-year-old daughter, Veronika, also received a gift.

Barranca said that they try to provide presents for siblings, as well, when they deliver the bikes.

“I think a bike represents childhood, and there’s kind of a sense of freedom to it,” he said. “Some kids use their bike to get to and from school.”

But since a bike isn’t a necessity, he said that families sometimes can’t make room in their budget to give their child a bike. That’s where the Optimist Club steps in.

He said it’s fun to see the different reactions from the recipients. Some teenagers, he said, act like they’re “almost too cool to admit that they love Santa showing up.”

The “sweet spot,” he said, is the 8- to 12-year-olds who are so excited to see Santa stop by with a new bike. He said he tells them to be sure to tell their friends about the delivery at school the next day, “because it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I feel like a celebrity,” he said.

Kasjan said that she was “so surprised” to have received the call offering a bike for her son.

“I said, ‘my son, he’s getting so tall,’” she said. “Everything was just perfect.”