More than 40 new bicycles — some orange and black, others pink and white — were lined up in the Gainesville Exploration Academy gym.
One by one, more than 40 students entered the gym, mildly puzzled expressions on their faces.
Little did they know, each student would walk out with a new bicycle in tow.
Academy Sports + Outdoors stopped by the school Friday morning to donate the bicycles. The donation is part of a companywide endeavor to give 4,000 bicycles to deserving children across the nation.
Gainesville Exploration Principal Renee Boatright called the visit from Academy representatives a “very special occasion.”
“It’s not Santa, not reindeer, not elves,” Boatright said. “But we have a new store in town, Academy Sports + Outdoors, and they were so nice to donate bicycles to our children.”
Boatright said every student with perfect attendance through the entire semester had their names put in a drawing. The store, located just down the road from the school at 1140 Dawsonville Highway, donated bicycles and helmets to 50 students in all.
“It’s really a pleasure to be here with you guys,” Russ Hilsher, Gainesville store director, told the students. “To be able to give you guys a bicycle for Christmas when you guys have been coming to school to learn, you’ve really touched all of our hearts. Each one of you deserves one of these bicycles.”
Hilsher commended the students, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade, for their hard work at school.
One kindergartener seated in the front row shouted, “Thank you!”
The students were allowed to bring their bicycles back to class to show their classmates, or parents were invited to the school to take the bicycles home.
Boatright said the donation was a great way to reward children and their families for a dedication to education.
“This is the first bike donation we’ve done in Hall County, and we look forward to doing it probably for many years to come,” Hilsher said. “Typically we’ll take it around to different schools, and it’s a fun way to give back.”
Hilsher said the store plans to do more throughout the year to partner with local schools.
“We’re just glad to be a part of it,” he said. “We hope they all enjoy the bicycles and have a very Merry Christmas.”