YUKON — John Ballard doesn't move around like he used to, but the 62-year-old Yukon resident is as busy as ever getting ready for Christmas.
Ballard isn't doing any shopping. He's busy fixing up old lawn mowers, grass trimmers and just about anything else with a motor in an effort to raise money for his Bikes for Kids charity.
For the past five years, Ballard has provided new bikes for needy kids. This year he estimates he'll provide about 200 new bikes to those who simply ask for them. The money for the bikes comes largely from his pocket, though some local businesses have helped.
It all started with Ballard repairing a few bikes for neighborhood kids.
“Kids started coming here and getting their bikes fixed,” he said. “When I was a kid I didn't even have a bike. So I started going to the dumps and finding bikes and fixing them up to give to kids. We realized we didn't have parts so that's when we started working on the mowers and Weedeaters and started selling them.”
Ballard's home has some Christmas decorations up. The backyard is filled with old bikes in the process of being restored. Throughout the rest of the year, Ballard will fix them up and distribute them to whoever asks. He recently outfitted a needy family of four with free bikes. But Christmas is different.
“I want the kids to have nice, new bike for Christmas that's all theirs,” he said.
Ballard has a few helping hands to get that done. His wife, Donna, son, Denny Ballard and stepson Ben O'Dea are all active in getting bikes out to kids.
Denny Ballard is limited physically because of spina bifida but is a whiz at fixing small engines. He's seen the smiling faces and gratitude of those who receive the bikes.