A week before the Christmas break, elementary students admired the coveted raffle prizes when they entered the cafeteria of Julia Randall Elementary School, making wide-eyed wishes and drooling in anticipation, not of sugar plums, but of bicycles.
The Masons, in spring of 2004, instituted the Books for Bikes drawing at Julia Randall. When Ken Hahn became the Master Mason for the Payson Lodge he wanted to expand the program to include all five public schools.
"We want to encourage kids to read." Hahn said.
Coincidentally, Devin Wala, owner of Manzanita Adventure Sports said, "We were looking for a way to give something back to the schools."
When he heard about the bike raffle, he and his company decided to donate nine bikes to the worthy cause, bringing the total number of bikes given away to 22.
Books for Bikes rewards children for reading. Each elementary principal had slightly different criteria for qualifying students for the drawings, but all had to do with school reading programs like AR (Accelerated Reader), which tracks books and reading comprehension.
In mid-December the Masons gave one bike away to a child from each grade at four elementary schools: three in Payson and one in Tonto Basin in the Rim country. The Pine-Strawberry school will have its drawing in January.
A play, based on the book, "The Sign of the Beaver" by Elizabeth George, was performed by 20 fifth-graders prior to the bike drawing at Julia Randall. The play was meant to whet the appetite of young readers as illustrated in the ending line, "We could tell you more, but then you wouldn't read it."
Students at all the schools that participated in the drawing were happy for their friends who won, calling out their names, applauding and shouting encouragements like, "Way to go!" and "Cool!"
With a big cheerful grin on his face, Hahn said, "Even if they don't win the bike, they still win."