If there’s one thing Harris Elementary School Principal Dr. Norma Huerta-Kelley knows, it’s that talent is evenly distributed, but opportunity is not.
So, as much as she can believe all kids need opportunities to find out what interests them, they don’t all get it. Bicycling is just one example, but it’s something she was able to affect this year, thanks to Bike Fort Collins’ (BFC) Wish for Wheels FoCo program – a program in partnership with BFC’s peer nonprofit, Wish for Wheels out of Denver. The partnership has great synergy. While BFC’s mission includes “increasing particpation” in bicycling and creating an “inclusive and empowering culture for all bicyclists, regardless of ability or identity,” Wish for Wheels’ mission is to deliver bikes to 2nd-graders in Title I schools, where anywhere from 40-85% of students are on the government’s free or reduced lunch program.
When BFC Executive Director, Dave Dixon was introduced to his counterpart at Wish for Wheels, Brad Appel back in 2020, Dixon saw an alignment between the two organizations as a great programmatic opportunity to augment BFC’s Safe Routes to School programming efforts. It was especially timely at that time too, as Safe Routes to School programming within the schools was suspended due students learning remotely during the pandemic. And, more than ever, kids were in need of an outlet to get outside and be active.
Since that initial year, over 900 bikes have been gifted to 2nd-graders at Title I schools like Huerta-Kelley’s.
On the morning of October 12th, BFC volunteers began rolling bikes into Harris Elementary on Garfield Street and crowding them into a hallway outside the cafetorium.
The arrival of bikes fueled a lot of excitement, and sweet recollections from 3rd and 4th graders who had received bikes the two previous years. Throughout the day, students would approach Huerta-Kelley and tell her they remember the day they got their bike and helmet, and how much they still love to ride.
“The kids are telling us that this program impacted them, that it made a difference for them in their lives,” Huerta-Kelley explained. “It is a little piece of freedom, and it’s safe.”
The ability to give bikes is driven by the capacity to sponsors, grants, and donations to to fund bikes of course, and because of the generosity of the local community, 2022’s Wish for Wheels FoCo event was made extra special for Harris.
“Last year most kids got a bike, but this year every kid got a bike,” Huerta-Kelley says, “and when parents would say ‘Oh, we have a bike, we don’t need it,’ Bike Fort Collins said to go ahead and just pay it forward.”
Giving every kid a bike was special in part because it wasn’t special – when every kid in 2nd grade gets a bike there is instant parity that even the youngest children can see.