ATLANTIC CITY — Kenadie McGowan took one look at the shiny new blue bicycle with the white banana seat and silver tassels hanging off the handlebars and couldn’t resist Tuesday afternoon.
The 8-year-old from Atlantic City immediately hopped aboard and took the bike for a spin around the gym of the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City.
“Blue is my favorite color,” Kenadie said. “This is really good.”
Christmas came early for Kenadie and other city kids as former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Ron Jaworski brought his third annual Jaws Bike Drive to the resort Tuesday.
More than 200 bikes were given away. Jaworski runs the bike drive as part of his foundation and Jaws Youth Playbook, which supports youth health and wellness programs in the greater Philadelphia area. Jaworski, his wife, Liz, and Mayor Marty Small Sr. watched as the children entered the gym to receive their bikes.
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“In these unprecedented times,” Jaworski said, “there’s roadblocks, detours and stop signs from helping these young people, but that’s not going to stop us. Despite all the craziness in the world right now, this is a special day for the Jaws Youth Playbook, myself and my family.”
The bike drive began two years ago in Camden. It was held in Vineland and Philadelphia last year. Jaworski is no stranger to Atlantic City. He was part of the ownership group of the Atlantic City Blackjacks, an Arena Football League team that played in Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in 2019, its only season.
“There’s need in Atlantic City,” Jaworski said. “I try to move the bike drive around and have a positive impact around our region. I live in New Jersey. I have ties to Atlantic City, but my big tie is to kids. My foundation is all about kids and what we can do to put a smile on their faces.”
There were plenty of COVID-19 precautions for Tuesday’s event. Children and their parents entered the gym a family at a time as Christmas carols blared in the background. Temperature checks were taken of everybody who attended, and there were plenty of masks — even Santa wore one while standing on the sidewalk outside the Boys & Girls Club.
For Renate Taylor, chief development officer of the Boys & Girls Club, the bike drive was a positive way to end a challenging year.
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“The gift of a bicycle is the gift of a childhood,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to make memories with your friends, to get lost in the wind and just be a kid again. That’s what our children need.”
Although their smiles might have been covered by masks, the excitement of the children could be seen in their eyes.
“I feel happy,” 9-year-old Leilani Castro said. “I like the design of it.”
Keilana Kirkland said the whole event was really cool.
“It’s a really girly bike, and I like it,” the 7-year-old said, “and you can ride (the bike) anywhere you want.”
Keilani hit on the event’s deeper meaning. A bike is a gift that keeps on giving. Tuesday wasn’t a one-time party. Children will hopefully be riding the bikes they got Tuesday on a hot summer day next July.
“It’s personal pride. It’s their bike. Now, they have ownership,” Jaworski said. “It gives them the freedom to ride around the neighborhood. It gives them the freedom to expand their horizons.”