Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Holland School Kids Bike Donation 2010

Over the course of two days and some change, IBC delivered a total of 108 Trek and Fisher kids bikes, along with Trek Vapor helmets, to the kids of the John P. Holland School in Dorchester, MA. International Bicycle Center has a program in place that encourages customers to return kids bikes within two years of purchase for a credit of up to 50% of the bike's value toward their next kids bike purchase. A 16" wheeled bike can be traded for a 20" wheeled bike, and so on, all the way up to a child's 24" bike, which can be traded-in for an adult-sized bike. This program provides an economical way for parents to keep their kids on appropriately sized bikes and as a "bi-product," IBC ends up with hundreds of kids bikes that are still in great condition, ready for donation.

A fleet of 16", 20", and even 24" (there are some huge first graders) wheeled bikes were assembled outside the community center at The Holland School. We were asked more than once how we got all those bikes into that tiny, little truck. It did sort of have a clown car effect, looking at the mass of colorful bikes sprawling across the courtyard, you'd never think they would all cram into that space. Thing is, they almost didn't.

Last year we did the bike drop in three days, at a rate of about 40 bikes a day. Somehow we completely forgot that, and decided we could do it in two days. Suffice it to say, the loading of the van was interesting. The fear was that the load would shift in transit, jamming the door shut, effectively locking all the bikes inside. This fear was almost realized when, on day two, the IBC pop-up tent fell against the door, blocking the track. For a minute there, I thought the only way we were getting those bikes out was with a Sawzall or an axe. There was even a point when I thought it was a good idea to drive the truck at high speed to the end of the back parking lot and slam on the brakes in hopes that the load would shift forward and free the door. Luckily the door did open after some manic jiggling.

The back of the truck was transformed into a helmet fitting station. Julie Sneed, 1st grade teacher, and our liaison to the Holland School and tireless volunteer James Parsons made sure each helmet was properly fitted.

Before the donation, questionnaires were distributed to the kids at the Holland School. They were asked if they were a boy or a girl, what their height was, and most importantly, what they were going to name their new bikes. All of the kids came up with great names — names like Max, Night Rider, and Fast Bike. One girl was confused when she couldn't find a bike with the name she'd given it on it, all the bikes said "Trek" or "Gary Fisher." She was looking for a bike called "True Jackson." When Julie, uh, I mean, Ms. Sneed, explained to the girl that the bikes were made by Trek and that she could call them anything she wanted to, she chilled out. When another boy was asked what the name of his bike was he replied, "It's a super star." "Oh, your bike is called Super Star." "No, a super star...Michael Jackson." Michael Jackson got a special spot in the line of bikes awaiting pick up.

The importance of helmet safety was discussed often and then, out nowhere, a spontaneous "meditation circle" formed. The kids were meditating on the fact that they are always going to wear their helmets when they ride their bikes. We still have no idea where that came from.

The dude in the orange and brown sweater and his twin brother were so excited, they were literally bouncing up and down. I told them "bounce this way," as I hopped over to the bike line up with them so they could pick out their bikes, as the cafeteria staff stared at the scene bemusedly from afar.

Ms. Sneed does such an incredible job with the kids, she gets them so pumped up, it's a beautiful thing to see. In fact, all the staff we met at the Holland School were amazing at what they do, Ms. O'Toole, Ms. Mai, Ms. O'Connell, Ms. Wilson, all of them are awesome teachers. I can't imagine having to direct the boundless energy of all those kids day after day. They deserve medals. The heck with that, they should have their visages carved into the top of a mountain.

All the kids took a pledge that they would always wear their helmets whenever they ride their bikes. In this case peer pressure might be a good thing. Now the vast majority of kids in the 1st and 3rd grades (last year IBC donated bikes and helmets to the 2nd graders) at the Holland have helmets and know how to use them. They might influence the kids who still don't wear helmets to actually wear them.

Boston Bikes will be following up with safety talks next week to drive home the necessity of helmet and traffic safety. Thanks to Nicole Friedman for getting that going, and big thanks to all the staff of the Holland, Ms. O'Toole's daughter whose name I'm forgetting), and James Parsons. There are a going to be a whole lot of happy kids rolling around the parks and bike paths of Boston this summer thanks to you guys.