Team Wal-mart launches historic bike drive

The largest bicycle drive in U.S. history began its weeklong 300-mile trek in Biloxi this morning, with 10 Wal-mart managers and a host of corporate sponsors kicking off a route that will travel the Mississippi coastline from Alabama to Louisiana before retuning to Biloxi Friday afternoon.

Retail giant Wal-mart is working with the Salvation Army and corporate sponsors to raise enough money to provide 100,000 bicycles for children in the hurricane-ravaged communities along the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana coastlines.

“Merry Christmas, Gulf Coast: 100,000 Bicycles or Bust” will have 10 Wal-Mart managers peddling cycles from dawn-to-dusk each day as the dozen-vehicle caravan travels U.S. 90 and boards marine vessels at the bays of Biloxi and Bay St. Louis where bridges were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

The fund-raising effort actually kicked off moments before riders boarded their bikes this morning at Yankie Stadium, as Pat Nichols, manager of DuPont’s DeLisle plant, presented a $20,000 check to the Salvation Army.

Over the next week, the effort is expected to capture nationwide attention, thanks to Clear Channel Communications, which actually originated a smaller version of the “Bicycles or Bust” holiday promotion a decade ago on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Clear Channel, which owns K99 FM and other radio stations in Biloxi, will have 1,300 of its sister stations across the country conduct daily interviews with the cellular-phone-equipped bike riders, who will encourage listeners across the country to make contributions via a toll-free number (1-800-SAL-ARMY) or online at

“This is an outstanding and much-appreciated project,” said Biloxi Mayor A.J. Holloway, who rode a bike during the Biloxi route this morning. “Wal-Mart is using its considerable resources to assemble a team of businesses and the media to make Christmas brighter for thousands of families and to call attention to the continuing recovery efforts here in Biloxi and along the entire Gulf Coast. I’m confident that the nation will respond.”

Among the Wal-mart’s major partners besides Clear Channel and DuPont, are Northrop Grumman; Cingular Wireless; Lamar Advertising; the Mississippi Department of Transportation Law Enforcement Division; BioDefend Pet & Wildlife Repellents; Mandal Pontiac-Buick-GMC Truck; and Paw Paw’s Camper City.