Putting a smile on children’s faces mean everything to those associated with the RC&D Lake Region Adopt-A-Bike program.

The program, which is in its 20th year, donates bicycles to children and adults throughout Anderson, Coffey, Franklin, Linn, Miami and Osage counties.

The RC&D works with the Lake Region Solid Waste Authority and the Ellsworth Correctional facility to provide refurbished bicycles throughout those six counties.

“We were actually doing it five years before we got tied in with the solid waste authority and Ellsworth,” Don Stottlemire, Lake Region RC&D and state RC&D president, said.

Stottlemire — who helped start the bike program — administers the program. The RC&D collects unwanted bikes through donations and the landfill. They deliver about 600 of those bikes per year to Ellsworth. The prisoners refurbish the bikes and return about 140 of those per year, Stottlemire said.

The RC&D in May and in the fall makes a trip to Ellsworth to exchange the broken down bikes for refurbished ones.

“Last year we had an awful good year because we had the KCPL grant,” Stottlemire said. “I was able to promote it a lot more with brochures and advertisements. We [gave out] 180 bikes last year. Normally it is 135-140.”

So far, the Lake Region RC&D has taken more than 8,000 bikes to be refurbished to Ellsworth with more than 4,000 coming back to donate.

Stottlemire didn’t think the program would be this successful, especially after the federal government pulled their funding. He said people in all six counties pulled together to keep the program afloat.

“I have a representative for each county,” Stottlemire said. “We work with the conservation districts. We get people that call and ask if we can use these bikes. Sometimes we get some from Walmart that are returns. Individuals contact with the good bikes.”

Stottlemire receives funds from organizations such as the Eagles, Elks, Over the Road Gang, Wellsville Chamber of Commerce, Walmart and KCPL. He writes a grant every year to purchase 100 bike helmets from Safe Kids of Kansas.

Stottlemire said the program has grown to where they have a loaner program now.

“We work with the health department for loaners for the trail rides,” he said. “We have a deal with Ottawa University where we do loaners in the summer for [students] to have transportation to get around school and downtown.”

Stottlemire put a few smiles on a Mound City family this week when he delivered five bikes.

“They wanted to have them for Easter,” he said. “It is amazing when it started out we thought it would be kids ages 4,5,6,7,8. It is from there on up.”

He said the program has a need for adult-size bicycles.

“We can’t keep big bikes [in stock],” Stottlemire said. “I usually have a lot of little bikes on hand. I will take any, but the adult sizes is what we are really short on.”

For those wanting to request bicycles from Lake Region, they need to go online to lakeregionsolidwaste.org/adopt-a-bike and fill out an application.