GREEN BAY — The history of Packers players taking a child’s bike and riding them to practice dates back to 1958. 64 years. A special tradition that kids will remember for a lifetime.
But there’s one family that tries to make sure every kid who shows up at Lambeau field has the opportunity to partake in the tradition.
“When they bring their bike back at the end of the day and they’re telling me about how cool it was – you can’t beat it,” said Adam O’Connell.
“A yearly thing and it’s really cool to me,” said Adam’s son, Sawyer O’Connell. “I love it.”
The O’Connell family has been coming to training camp for 11 years. After the first couple of them, Adam O’Connell, noticed something that needed to change.
“The first couple of years we’d see these kids standing around and the kids that didn’t have bikes, they looked like they were missing out and I thought, ‘why not throw one in the back of the truck,’ an extra one, ‘we’ve got extra bikes.’ That bike would go out and then we ended up with two, now we’ve come up with 17 bikes,” he said.
Now, it’s turned into a family affair. As his kids run around to make sure every young Packers fan has a bike.
“They’ll come park their bikes in line 5:30 – 6 o’clock in the morning and they’ll run over and they’ll say okay how many bikes do we got left, lets go get them all out and they’ll start finding kids walking by,” Adam said. “It’s nonstop. It’s a good tradition. It’s giving back.”
The family is helping bring those smiles that the players love to see.
“It means everything to me,” said Packers center Josh Myers. “It’s extremely cool. Just to get to see the smile on those kids faces, it’s awesome.”
“Just the kids, they come back and want to tell you, ‘ah, Jordan Love rode my bike. It was the best thing, he’s such a big start.”
A touch generosity that leads to moments that will be shared for a lifetime.
“When I see these kids go by with one of our bikes that we lent out for the day, that is just priceless.We saw in one of the first practices this year and a kid and his grandpa were here and they borrowed one of the bikes – they were going to just stay for the day. They ended up staying both days because the kids had so much fun the first time,” said Adam. “They were from Madison and Grandpa got him a hotel room – that smile is priceless.”
This is 14-year-old Sawyer’s last year riding with the players, but that doesn’t mean he’s going to stop bringing bikes to kids without one.
“He said that he’s going to continue to come and help find other kids to help get those kids on the bike in future. He goes, ‘I can’t ride anymore, I’m going to be too old. But I’m certainly going to find somebody else to do it,” Adam said.
Adam said that a few years ago, someone bought two brand new bikes for their kids to ride with the players and once they heard about what the O’Connell’s were doing, they gave those brand new bikes to them. The Packer community sure is a special one and the O’Connell’s are a prime example.