by Martha Wallner
One hundred and ten children were registered for the event by their parents who are locked up in prisons throughout California. They signed them up indicating that they wanted to give their children a new bike at the Community Giveback. On behalf of those parents, All of Us or None gathers donations, assembles the bikes and then holds the Giveback in a community space each year.
Children traveled from throughout the Bay Area and beyond with their families and caregivers to receive new bicycles and toys given to them on behalf of their parents who are incarcerated.
“As parents who were once on the inside, we understand the deep sadness that families separated by incarceration feel, especially around the holidays,” said Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children. Nunn, a Menlo Park resident, MC’d the event on Saturday.
The goal of the event is “to remind children with incarcerated parents that they have a whole community of people who care about them,” said event co-organizer, Hamdiya Cooks.
Bicycles, sporting equipment and toys were distributed to the children throughout the afternoon. Face painting was also a treat.
“When people get out of jail or prison, we face a lot of barriers to participating in our communities,” said San Mateo County resident and All of Us or None organizer Manuel La Fontaine. “We are not going to let those barriers stop us from contributing – especially to the children and their families – and that’s what this effort is all about.”
The Community Giveback requires a lot of preparation. With the assistance of chaplains from throughout the California prison system, including Michael Salaam at Avenal State Prison and Robert Bonds at California Correction Center, incarcerated parents sign up to request a gift for their child. All of Us or None spends months gathering donations from numerous individuals and bicycles and toys from organizations such as Toys for Tots Foundation and Turning Wheels for Kids, the San Jose based non-profit that donated 110 of the 175 new bicycles that will be given out this year.
Volunteers from All of Us or None assemble the bikes prior to the event and adjust the bikes for each child as they receive them. They also make sure that their safety helmets fit correctly.
Martha Wallner is communications and media coordinator for Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, 1540 Market St., Suite 490, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 255-7036, ext. 317, www.prisonerswithchildren.org. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.