For nearly three decades, WBT Hall of Fame Host, John Hancock, was the spearhead of an annual giving effort to bring holiday joy to thousands of kids each year. Referred to at the station simply as “The Bike Drive,” the event resonated deeply with WBT listeners resulting in the collection of some 20,000 bikes, as well as gifts, food, clothing and more to be given to tens of thousands of kids over 26 years.
With John Hancock’s retirement, and the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in the pause of operations at the event’s non-profit beneficiary Kids First of the Carolinas this year, the future of the bike drive was in question. But, through the dedication of the WBT staff, and with the partnership of the Carolina Panthers, WSOC TV, Frito Lay, and some new-to-the-cause charitable organizations, the bike drive was able to continue for its 27th year in 2020.
On December 15th, “Hancock’s Bikes for Kids” kicked off at 10 AM at Bank of America Stadium. Serendipitously a “Panther-blue,” white and black bike was the very first donation of the morning.
Over 400 bikes were ultimately donated by the day’s end at 7 PM. Throughout the day, loyal listeners to WBT, Panthers fans, and WSOC TV viewers streamed through the donation lane reserved on Mint Street in Uptown Charlotte to make their donations. Bikes of all sizes and colors, sometimes in groups of three, four and five at a time from a single donor, were dropped off and moved by volunteers from Thompson Child and Family Focus and Crisis Assistance Ministry into one of two semi-trailers provided at no cost to the event by Frito Lay.
In addition to the hundreds of Charlotte-area listeners that made donations, several organizations and businesses in the Charlotte community showed their support for Hancock’s Bikes for Kids, including the Panthers & the Tepper family, the Charlotte Knights, and Rountree Plantation Garden Center.
Not only did the Carolina Panthers make Bank of America Stadium available to host the event, The Tepper Family Foundation donated 50 bikes to this year’s drive. Speaking with WBT’s Brett Winterble on Monday ahead of the drive, Nichole Tepper shared her enthusiasm for the cause. “I’m very excited and also very honored to be able to continue this legacy in honor of John and provide this space to do great things and continue this for years and years to come. And I cannot wait for these kids and families to have a smile on their face, because that’s what this is about.”
The Charlotte Knights continued their annual tradition of donating 31 bikes and helmets, and CEO Dan Rajkowski expressed that, “This year has been awful in so many ways. It’s important to give back and we’ve always felt that way as a staff and as an organization. We want to continue to do it. Whether we play baseball or not, the Charlotte Knights Charities are going to buy some bikes for some kids.”
For Rountree Plantation Garden Center, participating in the bike drive is not only a way to give back to the community, it is a way to honor one of their own. A few years ago, Rountree wanted to honor the memory of team member Scott Parker, whose passion was helping kids in need, and decided that the bike drive was the right cause to do that. They began asking their customers to donate bikes, and used their business as a drop off location in the months leading up to the bike drive. On the night of the event each year, Rountree employees deliver the bikes on behalf of their customers. This year, Rountree Plantation Garden Center facilitated the donation of 25 bikes.
WBT personalities were on site to provide updates throughout the day on the donation count, and to keep the excitement and momentum alive. Listeners got to see and safely say hello to WBT’s Boomer Von Cannon, Brett Jensen, Pam Warner, Ed Billick, and Jim Szoke as they gave updates to our talk shows and in our newscasts as the day progressed. Reporter Brittney Johnson and other members of the WSOC TV news team were also on site to help spread the word to their viewers, and volunteers from the Carolina Panthers assisted donors all day.
Brett Winterble was at the stadium in the final hour of the drive, speaking live on the air with Mark Garrison to close out the event and thank the generous and loyal WBT listeners for once again supporting the community we share. “It was an amazing day for Hancock’s bikes for kids,” Winterble said after the event wrapped. “This was my first opportunity since joining WBT in February to interface with this amazing audience in person. The generosity and good cheer of the hundreds of people who showed up yesterday was truly awe inspiring. In gathering hundreds of bikes for well deserving children I forged new friendships with dedicated listeners to WBT. One man named Steve told me he was a 50 year listener of WBT and had attended every one of the bike drives Hancock led. It was an unbelievable show of generosity and good civic pride. I look forward to next year and can’t wait for this to continue to grow!”
WBT’s Bo Thompson added, “Never underestimate the generosity of WBT listeners and John Hancock’s legacy. Even during a pandemic, area kids will have bikes this Christmas!”
Upon hearing of the day’s success and the outpouring of well wishes from listeners that stopped by to donate, John Hancock shared, “Thank you all for keeping the spirit of Christmas alive. I am humbled by your dedication, and my heart is warmed to hear that so many listeners have me in their thoughts. Merry Christmas to you all. I sincerely hope you have a safe, memorable, and meaningful holiday.”
Hancock’s Bikes for Kids will culminate this Saturday, December 19, at Northside Christian Academy as Thompson Child and Family Focus and Crisis Assistance Ministry will distribute the donated bikes to designated recipients from 10 AM to 3 PM.
Partners WSOC-TV covered the event all day for their viewers as well: