In the face of COVID-19 restrictions, the Caddo Parish District Attorney and area businesses have again joined to make Christmas special for area schoolchildren.

Students from 39 Caddo Parish public elementary and middle schools again will be given brand-new bicycles from Academy Sports and Outdoors on Bert Kouns Industrial Loop, courtesy of El Dorado and Horseshoe casinos.

The 41 bicycles will be picked up December 19-24, 2020, by parents of the students chosen by their principals, using a voucher process.

“The schools just picked one child each, and the parents got a voucher for the bike,” said Shannon Wyche, truancy prevention program director for the Volunteers for Youth Justice, which helped organize the event with Caddo Parish D.A. James E. Stewart Sr. “A couple of schools picked more than one student, so there’s a total of 41 bikes.”

This is the fifth year in which area students have been given bicycles through the Caddo Parish DA’s initiative. Last year, 190 students from six Caddo schools got bikes. In 2018, 130 bicycles were distributed and in 2016 and 2017, 100 bicycles graced each Christmas season for local students.

“I am just thankful that during these challenging times our Community Partners still wanted to step up and help bring joy to some local students,” D.A. Stewart  said.

With almost 200 bikes given last year, the volume of bicycles and the melee of students and parents on hand made planners decide changes would have to be made, perhaps staggering the give-away days so fewer people would be on hand at each event. Then COVID-19 came along and masking and social distancing forced changes undreamed of a year ago.

“And, due to the COVID, this year there’s a shortage of bikes,” said Academy Sports store manager Doug Paga, who has worked with the event three years. “So we didn’t know if we were going to be able to do it at all. Last year it was ‘grab and go,’ but this year, with the vouchers, the bikes will be brought up from the back and given to the parent to take home. Last year it was a madhouse, but to see the looks on the children’s faces made it all worthwhile.”

For more information, call John Andrew Prime at (318) 617-5958, or call the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office at (318) 226-6955. For more information about Volunteers for Youth Justice and its programs, call its offices at (318) 425-4413.