Christmas Without Cancer bike contest

Christmas Without Cancer Bike Contest winners Leslie Campos and Nick Howlett prepare to ride home from Park Schwinn in Evergreen Park after guessing how many coffee beans were in a jar on the counter at Little Something Extra Bakery and Cafe in Oak Lawn.

Nick Howlett, 3, recently climbed atop every bike he could at Park Schwinn Cyclery in Evergreen Park, while Leslie Campos pondered a generous selection of floor models, as if to choose a bike that will someday transport her around a college campus in style.

On most days, Nick and Leslie have little in common; but they both like to go to Little Something Extra Bakery and Cafe in their hometown of Oak Lawn, and they both ventured guesses as to how many coffee beans were in a glass jar on the counter in a chance to win the Christmas Without Cancer (CWC) Bike Contest.

For two years running, Little Something Extra, 4616 W. 103rd St., has hosted the contest with sponsors CWC, the Evergreen Park United Homeowners Association, Park Schwinn Cyclery and Figel Public Relations in the annual event that has drawn thousands of guesses and the type of smiles exclusive to children’s faces on Christmas, especially when a bike is placed under the tree.

Nick’s guess was close; but Leslie was closer, just 16 beans off the actual count, and they both won a new bike.

When Nick got the news, he delivered an “OK,” and that was that.

Leslie was doubtful, not quite believing the phone call. In a typical blend of “teen angst,” she described her skeptical self as “surprised and excited.” She calmly volunteered to help in next fall’s CWC 5K fundraiser.

John DeBold, owner of Park Schwinn Cyclery, 3333 W. 95th St., always hosts the highlight of the Christmas contest. With 2019’s short lead-up to Christmas, organizers gave contestants (and their parents) an extra week to visit the bakery located in the strip mall that also includes Clancy’s Pizza Pub on the 4600 block of West 103rd Street.

“Usually, the Saturday before Christmas is one of our busiest pick up days,” said DeBold, “so, I was glad they extended the contest closer to New Year’s Day.”

CWC, the organization founded by Gerri Neylon, comes to the rescue of those impacted by cancer so the family can focus on Christmas. The volunteer group based in Evergreen Park identifies needs such as utility bills and mortgage payments, gas, parking and children who would love wrapped presents.

“The bike contest is our way of saying thanks to the surrounding communities because they are so generous in helping local families,” said Neylon. “Our mission includes assessing need and responding, but we can’t do that if we don’t have the resources that come directly from the generosity of people in Evergreen Park, Beverly, Morgan Park, Mt. Greenwood and Oak Lawn.”

Neylon said CWC has been a success for a simple reason.

“People know their donations are helping people locally right now,” she said, “so the family can focus on the spirit of Christmas.”

For more information, visit the website for Christmas Without Cancer.