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Making A Difference | Wheel-a-thon celebrates 20th anniversary

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He graduated from high school, yet couldn't read or write.

Now, decades later, a Dauphin County reverend is inspiring kids to stay in school, get good grades and be productive members of society.

And now 20 years into the Youth Ten Times Better "Wheel-a-thon" James Lyles is making a difference and trying to make sure kids are reading, writing and "wheeling" their way to success.

It's a right of passage, riding a bicycle.

You may start with three and end up on two wheels, but however you "spin it" childhood is meant for bike riding.

Revered James Lyles, founder of Youth Ten Times Better Ministries, understands that importance.

Twenty years ago he started the Wheel-A-Thon, giving away bicycles to kids in Dauphin County at Wesley United Church in Middletown.

That first year, one bike was given away to a lucky winner out of 300 kids who showed up.

Each year, the program grew to the point where last year there were 300 bikes for 100 kids who showed up!

And when the program first started, kids didn't have to do anything but show up with a parent or guardian.

"But what I was noticing is that some of the kids who were getting bikes had bad grades also have bad manners. They would just come and get a bike and walk away and not say thank you so I was talking to my wife and she said why don't you add the grades on to that."

Now kids have to have a good report card, no D's or F's, be accompanied by a parent and live in Dauphin County.

That hits close to home for Reverend Lyles, because he did not get good grades in school. In fact, he couldn't eve read and write, and still was able to graduate from high school.

And this year, for the 20th anniversary, Rev. Lyles wants to recognize sponsors and volunteers who have made this Wheel-a-thon a success.

Representatives from each sponsor have been asked to help give the bikes away, so they can see the faces and reactions of the kids who they are helping to make a difference for.

"You know back when you were a kid you got a bike changes everything you get from point a to point B everybody used to be walking can get there so that's instantly you can see that in the kids faces right away their minds already like I'm there do you know if they want to go to riverfront ride they can do that park whatever they can get their practice without walking in their uniforms they're there changes everything."

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