Jordine Hoffman came to her job counselor at Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services of Florida, Inc. with a Christmas wish:
Help me get my son a bicycle.
Hoffman has been out of work for about a year, ever since the woman who hired her to watch her kids got laid off herself. The money isn't there for the eye-popping gift Hoffman wanted to give her 9-year-old son, Jordan.
"So I was on a mission," said Jennifer Hess, who helps deaf and hearing impaired clients with their job searches.
Hess punched "free bikes for kids" into an Internet search engine and arrived at the Web site of Clearwater attorney James W. Dodson, who was cosponsoring a bike giveaway for five deserving kids. Hess nominated Jordan, a good kid who gets solid grades and is bilingual, since he communicates with his mother using sign language.
A few weeks later, Dodson called Hess with an exciting announcement: Jordan was getting a bike. And could Hess suggest four more kids?
No one else, it seems, had even applied.
Hess added Jordan's 4-year-old sister, Summer; and 10-year-old Camilia Hernandez, the daughter of another hearing impaired client, to the list. A friend who works with a single-parents' support group at Calvary Chapel Worship Center suggested two more: 8-year-old Ariel Derouin and 11-year-old Austin Hartner.
Four of the kids arrived with their parents Thursday afternoon at Bicycle Outfitters in Seminole, which cosponsored the giveaway, to get their new wheels:
Pink bikes with white tires for the girls. Black BMX Mirraco bikes for the boys.
The kids cheered. The adults cried.
"We love doing this kind of stuff," said Nicole Clarke, a bicycle consultant at the shop.
After getting their free helmets and safety tips, the kids headed to a trail behind the store to break in their new bikes. (Austin couldn't make it Thursday and will get his bike another day.)
How did it feel to see Jordan get his bike?
"It was awesome," his mother said through a sign language interpreter.
Hoffman turned to everyone at the bicycle store and said "thank you" with her hands and mouth. The organizers of the giveaway, who learned the signs for "thank you" and "you're welcome" by watching the afternoon's exchanges, returned the sign.