About 50 kids stormed the rows of bicycles lined up outside the Boys & Girls Club of Yellowstone County on Tuesday to try out their new rides, which were donated by the employees of Merrill Lynch.
It was the second batch of bikes given away this year, totaling 100, as the company celebrates a century of business, Billings office senior resident director Frank Witt said.
“The more we thought about it, why not give kids bikes to get to where they want to go?” he said.
“We certainly are advocates for fitness to not only get kids where they want to go, but get them in shape while they do it,” Witt added.
The 22 staff members in Merrill Lynch’s Billings office raised about half of the $12,000 needed to purchase the bikes, with the rest coming from the company’s corporate office. Scheels sold them the bikes at cost.
Kids received a bike, helmet, lock, a token to ride the Ferris wheel that will soon open in the new Scheels store, plus ice cream for good measure.
As soon as the bikes were in sight, Taya Oschmann, 8, couldn’t hold in her excitement.
“I would like to go to the zoo on my bicycle!” she yelled as Witt spoke to the kids.
The zoo, she later explained, isn’t anywhere near her house. Oschmann said that wouldn’t be a problem. When she isn’t pedaling to the zoo, she plans to ride it to school.
“Which is Bench Elementary,” she added, pulling a fudge bar from her mouth.
Merrill Lynch employees and a staff member from St. Vincent’s fitted the helmets for each rider, while Scheels bike staff showed others how to operate their bike’s gear system.
Oschmann carried the bike with her as she stood in line to pick up her helmet, then rushed to ride alongside others who were zig-zagging around a section of the parking lot.
“I never wanna leave this bike,” she said.
Maya Deonier, 8, wasn’t sure where she’d ride. “Probably to my grandma’s,” she said.
Her brother Anthony already had a bike, which he rides around the park near Orchard Elementary. But his friend, 12-year-old Taryn Liming, was eyeing the frame while Deonier grabbed his helmet.
“He might give me this one,” Liming said.