Published November 18, 2014
Volume 22, Number 11

Building Bikes to Help Kids & the Community
Turning Wheels for Kids

By Zoe Francis

The only thing better than giving a kid a new bike is giving a bike you built with your own two hands.
TurningWheels for Kids leverages that pure joy of sweat equity by offering people the chance to build bikes that are then donated to children in need.
Turning Wheels for Kids“We know that we’re making a real difference in kids’ lives when they get these bikes,” Cathryn Griggs, founder of the group’s Tri-Valley chapter, said. The impact is “not only in their self esteem that someone thinks enough of them to give them something new, but (the bikes give them) the freedom and responsibility to do more with their lives.”
TurningWheels for Kids started in Santa Clara County a decade ago, doling out bikes built at the group’s annual Big Bike Build that is held just before the winter holidays.
“I got involved with them eight or nine years ago when I went to do the Big Bike Build,” Griggs recalled. “One day on my way home, I said to some folks, ‘You know, there are kids in need in the
Tri-Valley. I wonder how we could get bikes to them.’ ”
Griggs recruited like-minded friends and organized the Tri-Valley chapter three years ago. The local group’s third annual Big Bike Build is coming up Dec. 6 at the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
“The only complaint we had about the day is (that people) want to build more bikes,” she said. “The last two years, we built 500. This year, we’re going to build 750 bikes, which we’re very excited about. Every year, there’s greater need than we have bikes. There are some requests that we’re unable to fulfill. We try to give as evenly to all the charities. We don’t want to leave any charities out.”
The bikes are distributed through charities in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Not only is the need for bikes greater than demand, but the community’s desire to help extends far beyond the annual Big Bike Build.
The bike charity is filling that philanthropic desire by offering businesses the opportunity to build bikes year-round as team-building events for employees.
“The bikes they build that day go out to kids,” Griggs said. “This year, 750 kids in Santa Clara County received brand-new bikes because of these corporate bike builds. The corporation is making a tax-deductible donation to us, which helps us buy more bikes for December. It’s a win-win for them and us.”
TurningWheels for Kids works with Raleigh and Dynacraft bike manufacturers to get bikes for an average of $100 each. Each bike comes with a free helmet for safety, and the charity now offers bike repair workshops throughout the year to keep bikes in tip-top shape.
“We really believe that the kids that we serve are the kings and queens of hand-me-downs,” Griggs noted. “For them to receive a brand-spanking-new bike does a lot for kids’ self-esteem and self-worth.”
Often times, the kids who get the free bikes will show up at corporate team-building events so employees get to be there the moment a child gets a new bike.
“The look on the child’s face when they get on the bike for the first time is priceless,” Griggs said. “Being a part of making that happen for a kid is priceless.”
“The difference that they’re making in kids’ lives is immediate,” she added. “The feelings the workers get who come together to do this is so positive. It really makes them proud to be a part of what their company is doing, and it’s a great way to give back to the community.”
Learn more about TurningWheels for Kids, the Big Bike Build and corporate team-building events at turningwheelsforkids.org. Volunteers must register in advance for the Dec. 6 Big Bike Build. Contact Griggs at cathy@turningwheelsforkids.org.


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