Front Royal man leads bike drive

Matthew Feucht, 11, of Front Royal, left, helps his stepdad Shawn Lucas assemble a bicycle inside the Front Royal Moose Lodge on Friday evening. Lucas spearheaded a community effort to raise money for bicycles for needy children in the Front Royal area. Rich Cooley/Daily

When Shawn Lucas, 39, was growing up in Manassas, he did not have much. The son of a construction worker, Lucas did not get the biggest, best presents around the holidays.

Now a father himself, Lucas said he wonders how his father felt when he could not provide his children with a spectacular Christmas gift.

“When I give a present to my kids, I get this wonderful, tingly feeling because I know I just made them happy,” Lucas said. “I have to wonder how my father felt when he couldn’t. He did the best he could, but we didn’t get much.”

So 1999, Lucas was getting his hair cut by Frank Falgiano, a Manassas barber, who suggested the two start raising money with a jug in his shop and use the proceeds to build bicycles for needy children in conjunction with the Woodbridge Toys for Tots.

Lucas said he and Falgiano chose bicycles because of the sense of freedom they give children.

Frances Payne tightens a bicycle wheel. Rich Cooley/Daily

“A bicycle is a kid’s first taste of freedom, when they hop on that bike, pedal hard and feel the wind flow through their hair,” Lucas said. “Freedom is an emotion worth dying for, whole countries are founded on it. And for a kid, a bicycle is that first taste of it.”

But times changed and Lucas and Falgianos’ families grew and after five years, the duo called it quits. Lucas moved to Front Royal in 2001, where he raised a family, and worked in information technology.

But last Christmas, a holiday mix-up led Lucas back into the bike drive.

“I had bought my 11-year-old a bike for Christmas online from Wal-mart, but when they sent it to me, they sent me two bikes, so I tried to return the second one, but they had no record of it,” Lucas said.

So Lucas took to Facebook, asking his friends and families if they knew any families with children who needed a bike. He got eight responses.

Ben Auterback tightens a handle bar stem on a bicycle. Rich Cooley/Daily

“I went and bought seven more bikes,” Lucas said. “So this year, when my fiancé and I were Christmas shopping, I started wondering how many bikes I could get for kids if I tried.”

Throughout December, Lucas has taken to Facebook, asking folks if they would like to donate money toward bicycles for children. With 71 bikes collected, Lucas said he is happy with the response.

“I’m completely blown away by how much people have given,” Lucas said. “I’m not a charity, I’m not a nonprofit, and I’m just a guy hoping to give kids a little Christmas cheer.”

Lucas continued, “These people trust me with their money, trust that I’ll do what I’m saying I’m doing. It’s just wonderful to see them have so much charity and trust.”

Last Friday, Lucas asked for volunteers to come out to the Moose Lodge in located at 1340 John Marshall Highway in Front Royal. He said he knew fundraising was going to be the hardest part.

Rick Owens, of Culpeper, a friend of Shawn Lucas, made the drive to Front Royal on Friday night to help assemble bicycles at the Front Royal Moose Lodge. Rich Cooley/Daily

“Times are tough for a lot of folks, so I understand when people can’t contribute money for the bikes,” Lucas said. “But a lot of people can pick up a wrench and put some bikes together.”

Lucas said he had no goal for the bike drive.

“My only goal is to make sure somebody’s kids are going to be happy for Christmas,” Lucas said. “There’s a lot more important things then giving toys and bikes to kids. But from a kid’s perspective, a bike or a toy is everything.”

Lucas said while he does not know if he will hold a bike drive next year, he hopes he will.

“It’s always in the plans, but we can’t foresee the future, can’t foresee what next year will be like,” Lucas said. “I hope we can do it next year, but I’m not making any promises.”

Contact staff writer Henry Culvyhouse at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or hculvyhouse@nvdaily.com