Driven by a desire of GSF Foundation volunteers to unite in a common service effort, 24 GSF and QCD facilities across the United States held 18 bike building events at their respective locations on May 11, for local school-aged children.
With the help of more than 850 Foundation volunteers, over 600 kids built and went home with brand new bikes, many of which were their first bikes ever – a dream come true for some. Other children learned how to ride a bike for the first time at the event.
This year marks the first time the GSF Foundation has held a nationwide bike building event, but individual events take place throughout the year at participating GSF locations. To date, more than 1,000 bikes have been built in dozens of local communities across the United States.
“If we were to measure success by smiles, the bike building event produced a milestone in that category,” said Chuck Browne, executive director of the GSF Foundation. “It was a record day for participation in a program that’s less than a year old. It has always been about bringing together the right mix of volunteers, children and an idea, then standing back and watching magic and memories happen.”
Indeed, many special memories were made for kids and volunteers alike. “I have always been begging and begging for a bike,” said one child at the Rochester, NY event at a local McDonald’s. “I’m so happy right now!”
Another child added, “Thank you for my bike. I learned how to ride it and didn’t even fall!”
In partnership with Optima Batteries, the bike building program provides second- and third- grade school children in need with their own, and often very first, bicycle they build themselves under the guidance of a caring mentor. The program teaches fundamental life skills such as goal setting, safety, the value of hard work to achieve goals, and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle through physical activity. Each child gets to build their very own new bike with an adult mentor and takes home the bike, along with a helmet and lock.
“A bike helps a child develop his or her sense of self-reliance, adventure, strength and character,” added Chuck. “Not only do the children benefit from the program, but our associates, customers and partners have the opportunity to share their time and talent and see firsthand the difference our program can make in the community and the lives of children involved.”
The success of the bike building program is due in large part to the partnerships formed over past years. Some events were held at GSF/QCD customer locations such as McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A restaurants, which also provided food for the kids and volunteers. With the help and support of local bike shops that act as an excellent resource for future tune-ups and safety lessons, the program gives children the necessary tools to maintain their new bicycle. Other partners to the bike building program include the YMCA and the Boys and Girls Clubs across America. They believe in and understand the value of the bike building program as a tool that promotes reward for hard work and engagement. Working with like- minded organizations strengthens the core message at the heart of the bike building program, the importance of teaching children responsibility and healthy life choices.
A young boy at the San Antonio, Texas event at the QCD distribution center cried when he said, “Thank you for the bike. I have always wanted a new bike, but my mom can’t afford one.”
“This is what it’s all about,” summed up Richard May, a GSF Portland driver, who volunteered at the Northwest event at a local McDonald’s.
“It’s great to see the smiles on the children’s faces and know that you have made an impact on their lives,” adds Mark Masterton, Customer Service Representative from GSF Rochester.