Santa Claus cycling on a roll after forced disruption by pandemic

After being sidelined last year following the pandemic shutdown, cycling Santas are back in action.

Trish Hurley and Sean Canova have been collecting bikes for families in need this Christmas for almost 15 years.

The inspiration behind their Bicycle Santa philanthropic effort is their shared joy in owning bikes like when they were kids.

“As a kid my bike took me to school and to friends,” said Hurley.

“After all this COVID thing, cycling has given us the opportunity to move forward and help us become again who we are as a community,” Canova said. “It creates action and momentum for both of us … to give a child something he never dreamed of getting.”

What started with one or two bikes coming from a tree in the gym at Canova’s training area in Costa Mesa has grown to over 100 bike donations each year. Their last donation of 130 bikes to FaCT (Families And Communities Together, Orange County) was in 2019.

At the Tustin Family Resource Center on Thursday, FRC representatives lined up to accept donated bikes for distribution at the 16 facilities in Orange County.

(Susan Hoffmann)

FaCT is a public-private partnership between the Orange County Social Services Agency and Charitable Ventures. Their mission is to prevent child abuse before it happens by providing family strengthening resources. Among their offers are parenting courses, family support services, information and guidance services, domestic violence services.

The biking effort begins with a Walmart shopping spree where Canova and Hurley select a good chunk of bikes, helmets and locks, which are paid for by Hurley’s private charity, Miles of Smiles. The remaining bikes, helmets and padlocks are donated by current and former customers of the Canova Gymnasium, where they are dropped off.

There has been a lot of demand for bikes during the pandemic so inventory levels are not high at retail outlets. Additionally, according to the Wall Street Journal, the cost of a bicycle has increased by about 54% since 2019.

“It was a little more difficult this year,” said Hurley. “There was a shortage of bikes and we couldn’t be selective like in the past, so we bought whatever they had on the rack.”

Gina Nunes and Adolfo Andrade load a bicycle donated by Bicycle Santas into a truck for distribution.

On Thursday at the Tustin Family Resource Center, FRC Gina Nunes and volunteer Adolfo Andrade, City of Westminster Building Maintenance Supervisor, load a bicycle donated by Bicycle Santas onto a truck for distribution to FRC’s Westminster branch .

(Susan Hoffmann)

Canova explained the effect riding a bicycle has had on her gym clients over the years. “I see people dropping off bikes that haven’t gone to the gym in years,” Canova said. “It’s because it was part of their life when they were members.

“A lot of effort went into finding the bikes and now [having to spend] over two years ago, ”he continued, describing the donors as“ delighted ”.

Kyle Garnier, who moved to Orange to be closer to his company, Harry’s Marine Engine Services, has since been inconsistent with his training schedule with Canova in Costa Mesa, but he found time to drop off three bikes.

“One of my adopted mechanics walked around town through all the empty bike shops before he found them in Garden Grove,” Garnier said. “He took them home and put them together that night and brought them to the store the next day, all ready to go. I’ve never seen him so excited to have the bikes and put them together; it really hit home for him.

Bicycle Santas, Sean Canova and Trish Hurley, center are surrounded by FRC, friends and family.

Bicycle Santas, Sean Canova and Trish Hurley, center are surrounded by FRC, friends and family on Thursday during the distribution at the Tustin Family Resource Center.

(Susan Hoffmann)

FaCT Program Director Candice Staples said, “From our perspective… this year is even more important because the return of the bike ride symbolizes a return to normalcy. We are delighted to help facilitate this effort with the support of Trish, the Hurley family, Sean Canova and Training Zone OC.

On Thursday, 80 bikes were divided equally among the 16 family resource centers. Representatives then loaded the bikes onto trucks and vans to take them back to their locations where the sizes of adults and youth are tailored to the recipients based on the family’s needs.

“The impact of this donation is monumental,” Staples said. “Adults and teens can use their new bikes for transportation, while young people can experience their first taste of independence on two wheels… with the added benefit of fitness for all. “

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