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Lizzy's has wheels to give

From left, Perry Crawford, Anthony Fallone, Jack Liebau and Ron Nichols display bicycles outside Calcara's Barber Shop in Mars on Thursday. The nonprofitLizzy's Bikes organization plans to give away 300 bikes to disadvantaged children this Christmas.

MARS — Lizzy’s Bikes officials hope to help Santa place shiny new bikes under lots of Christmas trees this year.

Brian Kutchma, president of Lizzy’s Bikes, said the organization can give away 300 bikes to disadvantaged youths age 2 to 12 for Christmas 2012.

He said members are working to spread the word by sending posters and applications for bikes to 15 food cupboards. The group also sent e-mails to 40 Butler County churches, and has a booth that it sets up at fairs and festivals.

“It’s all about creating awareness,” Kutchma said.

Lizzy’s Bikes, named for the first recipient of a free bicycle at Easter 2010, gave away more than 100 bicycles and tricycles last Christmas, as well as new helmets to accompany them. In its two years of existence, the organization has placed more than 275 Butler County children on wheels.

“We’re not curing cancer, but we’re making a difference in people’s lives,” Kutchma said.

He said the organization’s revenue has been bolstered by corporate sponsorships, including RW Products, A.A. Scholze, Total Business Solutions, Bill Harper’s Outdoor Power Equipment, Farrow Transport and Marburger Farm Dairy. Lizzy’s Bikes in 2010 also received the backing of the Kiwanis Club of Mars, which has taken the organization on as one of its community action programs.

Lizzy’s Bikes has several raffles each year, and founder Anthony Fallone landed on a fortuitous set of circumstances recently that will see several high-end adult bicycles raffled off to benefit the cause.

Fallone stayed at a large bed and breakfast near Altoona for a small wedding, and had coffee with its manager one morning. Lizzy’s Bikes cropped up in the conversation, and the manager asked Fallone to step into the basement.

There, still in their boxes, were five new Windsor bicylces valued at about $750 apiece.

“He said ‘They’re yours,’” Fallone said.

The manager had bought the bikes online with the idea of lending them to customers, but the idea was thwarted because of liability issues. Once he heard about Lizzy’s Bikes from Fallone, the manager knew what he would do with the new bikes.

“That couldn’t happen again in a thousand years,” Fallone said of the situation.

Lizzy’s Bikes is selling chances on two of the bikes at $2 a piece or 3 for $5. They are available from any Lizzy’s Bikes member or at Calcara’s Barber Shop in Mars, where Fallone is a barber.

Fallone can’t say enough about the people of the Mars area, whose support of Lizzy’s Bikes allowed it to go from a small community group that gives away a few bikes a year to a significant nonprofit organization that provides bicycles to needy kids all over Butler County and sometimes beyond.

“I have no words that can explain how wonderful the people of Mars are,” Fallone said. “They have just opened their arms to us, and we love it.”

Kutchma said volunteer opportunities are available with Lizzy’s Bikes for those who have the skills to fix up the donated bikes and to help out at the warehouse. He said that he and three volunteers recently fixed bikes.

“If we had more volunteers, we could have gotten more bikes done,” Kutchma said.

“It’s a great program. I think it’s working tremendously.”

For information, to donate or to volunteer, or to apply for a bicycle, log onto www.lizzysbikes.com.

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