Clayton Lillard doesn't look like Santa Claus. No beard. No red outfit. No sleigh. But to hundreds of needy kids, he might as well be the big guy in the red suit. After all, he's the one who dropped off a bike for them a couple of days before Christmas.
It all began in 1998 when he found two battered bikes on top of a pile of brush in his San Antonio neighborhood. The thought hit him: It would be really great to fix up those bikes and give them to kids who don't have one.
Clayton started by persuading a local radio station to announce that he was looking for 25 used bicycles, and soon other stations and newspapers began talking up his project. When a hundred bikes were dumped in his yard, he organized a group of neighborhood kids to help him repair them. With help from his dad, Clayton and his friends cleaned the bikes, replaced the tires and made minor repairs.
Then he rounded up donations for bike helmets and locks. He donated them as Christmas gifts to children who had a parent in prison. Since that first year, "Clayton's Backyard Crew" has repaired and donated more than 600 bikes through area churches' Angel Tree ministries, which give Christmas presents to kids who have a parent in jail.
"The kids think the bikes are from their incarcerated parent," says Clayton, now 16. "That's OK with me. Just seeing the excitement on their faces as they realize 'My Daddy loves me!' is the best reward."
Whenever he can, Clayton makes sure they know their Heavenly Father loves them, too; and that's why Jesus was born.
"This was God's idea," says Clayton. "He just allowed me to be the instrument that he used to bring his love to the children."
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Campus Life magazine.
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