Early Saturday morning, waves of movement swept through the Clark County Events Center at the fairgrounds as dozens of helping hands eagerly began their quest to provide bikes to hundreds of children over the holidays.
This year, Scott Campbell’s Christmas Pledge – an annual event organized by Waste Connections and several local community groups – sought to provide 560 free bikes to families. Now in its 12th year, the charity event continues to be a hit in the community.
In less than two hours, more than 150 volunteers had quickly reached this goal.
At the sound of a 9 a.m. bell, volunteers quickly opened packages containing multicolored bike parts, unfurled their tool kits and spent a few moments deciphering manuals. For some it was their first time building a bike.
For Cass Parker and his wife, Nathalie, building bikes is not their particular forte.
“My new skill is reading instructions,” laughed Nathalie Parker.
The pair were not deterred from their task, as they managed to produce a fleet of modest size. Cass Parker said contributing to the cause was worth overcoming a slight learning curve, which quickly dissipated after a few tries.
“It makes you feel good. Your time is the best gift you can give,” she said.
Plus, there was no way the pressure could be high with Santa, the Grinch, and other local mascots weaving between construction stations to greet volunteers.
The bikes ranged in flashy designs and sizes, ranging from balance bikes for toddlers to 24-inch bikes for teens. Some frames were neon; others had muted colors and patterns. Rubber handlebars were adorned with glittering pom poms or left bare. All bikes were paired with a helmet.
But the operation did not stop at the editing table.
Members of Bike Clark County oversaw quality checks as volunteers adjusted loose handlebars and saddles or pumped more air into the wheels—sometimes parts had to be flipped or right-side up.
A quality control checker, Bill Tymer, said having a bike can “open the door to so many opportunities”. Tymer, an avid cyclist himself, said the socialization and health benefits alone make owning a bike very valuable.
Jon Wooten, a Waste Connections employee and repeat volunteer, said giving bikes to kids and teens can teach them responsibility through its unavoidable upkeep. Owning a bike can also give them some independence when commuting from home to school or a part-time job.
Beloved beginnings, evolution
The event’s main character, Scott Campbell, has dedicated his life to community involvement, having served dozens of nonprofits and charities. He has held local leadership positions, such as board seats for the Fort of Vancouver National Trust and Clark County’s Park Foundation, and established valuable local projects, including Waste Connections’ Christmas Promise program. .
Campbell died aged 59 from cancer, leading his employer, Waste Connections, to name the annual holiday event after him.
He believed that every kid in Clark County who wanted a bike should have one, whether or not they could afford it, said Cyndi Holloway, director of government and community affairs for Waste Connections. Thanks to the program, hundreds of children have received bicycles during the holidays.
This year, hundreds more will receive a new gift thanks to Scott Campbell’s Christmas pledge.
“If Scott was still with us today, he would be proud of what we do,” Holloway said.
Building bikes, initially for Waste Connections employees, quickly grew in popularity as Scott Campbell’s promise resonated with countless locals, she said. The company’s small internal gathering, making an average of 100 bikes, has turned into a massive community affair involving dozens of local organizations, small businesses and families who come independently.
Support for the event came from the J. Scott Campbell Foundation, the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, and several months of corporate fundraising.
“All the work and all the hours don’t even compare to the joy on the kids’ faces when they see their new bike,” Holloway said. “Everything is worth it.”
Waste Connections will prepare the bikes for delivery in the coming week for its partners – including Santa’s Posse, Friends of the Children, the Police Athletic League and the YMCA – to distribute to families.