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Christmas on wheels

Bob and Desiree Brown and friends give 53 new bikes and helmets to needy local kids
by: Jaime Valdez, BIKE BONANZA — At one of the stops during Saturday’s great bike giveaway, Jessica, 8, wheels away her new bike while (from left) Bob Brown, Desiree Brown and Chief Bill Dickinson look on.

Christmas came early - and big time - for dozens of Tigard kids this year.

On Saturday, Santa and Mrs. Claus - aka Bob and Desiree Brown - with the help of several 'elves' recruited from the Tigard Police Department, gave each of those kids the ultimate Christmas gift - a new bicycle.

But Santa wasn't riding in a sleigh pulled by reindeer this year. Instead, Mr. and Mrs. Claus were chauffeured around in the department's psychedelically painted DARE Cadillac Escalade.

This story actually started decades ago, when 9-year-old Bob Brown and his 11-year-old brother were abandoned by their mother in the Midwest and had to fend for themselves.

Brown admits to stealing clothes from clotheslines and food from picnic baskets left unguarded by families just to survive.

'It was just a horrible life,' he said.

Determined to turn it around, Brown decided to get an education, so he joined the military when he was 17.

'First, I had to get my GED, and when I took the test, I didn't even come close,' Brown said. After Brown told his story to the woman administering the test, 'she graded me on a really big curve, and I passed,' he said.

'I don't know who she was, but I was just determined to do something with my life. Thanks to her, I got into the Army, and since I got out, I've enjoyed life ever since.'

Brown loves music, and he played with a 13-piece band and was an Elvis impersonator among his previous careers.

Sponsoring families over the years as a way of paying back those who helped him when he was a lost and lonely kid, Brown, who in 2001 started Asphalt Concrete Soils Testing Inc. in Tigard, decided to do it in a big way this year.

Brown set a goal of getting 40 bikes to give away to needy kids, and then the goal was raised to 50; when the drive was over, there were 53 shiny new bikes in different sizes that were purchased from Wal-Mart, which gave him a 10 percent discount.

Over the past 1½ months, the 40 ACS employees could contribute money toward the cause, and Brown got many of his vendors involved as well, including Holm Brothers Construction, Rapid Soil Solutions, Cal-Cert and the Sante Group.

Doug Esquiver, vice president and co-owner of ACS, and company project manager Sue Adams also worked on the bike giveaway, which included purchasing helmets to go with the bikes. 'It's a great thing to do,' Esquiver said.

Brown contacted the Tigard Police Department and worked with public information officer Jim Wolf to come up with a list of kids who would benefit from receiving a bike for Christmas and wouldn't get one otherwise.

Wolf contacted Tigard schools, and school counselors and teachers provided names of kids to receive the bikes; the department contributed bike locks for all the kids.

'Jim has been fantastic to work with,' Brown said.

Finally, D-Day arrived, and everyone met at the city's public works yard on Ash Street for coffee and pastry before setting out.

Officers filled the department's Mobile Response Team truck with as many bikes as they could fit in it, and the procession, which included Chief Bill Dickinson, rolled out.

The first stop was a house, where Sierra, 11, and her brother Nate, 9, ran out barefoot when the police brigade arrived because each was on the list to receive a bike.

'What do you say?' their mom prompted, and the kids replied in unison, 'Thank you!'

Nate yelled, 'I like this! Ohhh! Ohhh! This is pretty good. This is awesome!'

Sgt. Mike Eskew reminded them, 'Ride safely, and remember to wear your helmets. Go in and put shoes on and then ride your new bikes.'

With exchanges of 'Merry Christmas,' the group got back in their vehicles to drive to the next stop.

'That was a good feeling,' Brown commented. 'That was fun. If this makes one person do this in their life, it makes it all worthwhile.'

At the next stop at an apartment complex, Alipio, 8, and his sister Michaela, who turned 10 the next day, each got bikes, and Eskew showed them how to use the locks.

At each stop, younger siblings of the kids receiving bikes could choose a toy from the back of an overflowing police SUV, and Alipio and Michaela's brother Travis, 3, chose a power tool set.

When his mom said, 'What do you say?' the shivering little boy could only say, 'Brrrr.'

As the group walked out of the apartment complex parking lot, Wolf called out, 'Make sure you lock your bikes up. You be safe with them.'

As the members of the procession climbed into their vehicles, a bike rider going by in the street called out, 'That was awesome, guys.'

Carlos, 7, and his sister Jessica, 8, got bikes at the next stop, as did Brenda, 7, at the following stop.

When Rita, 12 got her bike, her little sister April, 3, chose a big pink rocking horse from the back of the SUV for her gift.

At the next apartment complex, Eric, 8, got a bike, and that visit was followed by a stop to give a bike to Gilberto, 8, while his sister Joselyn, 5, chose a huge baby doll that was almost as big as she was.

Next Daylin, 8, got a bike, and like the other kids, his parents had told him a day or two before about the upcoming gift, 'but they didn't say the police were bringing it,' he said.

With all the bikes gone, the group returned to the public works yard to load up another batch of bikes, helmets and locks before heading out to deliver them.

Following that run, everyone gathered at the Tigard Public Works Building for lunch provided by the Browns before delivering the rest of the bikes in the afternoon.

'I've been to the very bottom,' Brown said. 'I know where I come from, and I remember it. Now I want to help others. Our goal for next year is 200-plus bikes, and we would like to find a facility where we could invest $5,000 or $10,000 to serve dinner to people.

'Our goal is to work with Jim (Wolf) throughout the year. We want to be a resource to the police department.'