Published September 19, 2017
Volume 1, Number 9

Turning Wheels For Kids Builds Community as Well as Bikes

By Hacienda Pulse Staff Writer
For more than 13 years, TurningWheels For Kids (TWFK) has been dedicated to its mission of providing Bay Area children with brand new bikes to encourage life long habits of exercise, outdoor activity, and independence. Over its history, this nonprofit has built more than 30,000 new bicycles and distributed them to needy children. While most bicycles are distributed during December, many are distributed at other times of the year.
In August, for example, a Northern California construction company donated employee time and the costs of bicycle components to build 40 new bikes at a Corporate Bike Build at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. The new bicycles were then donated to Tri-Valley Haven to pass on to children in need.
“This was the second year we have done this event and donated to Tri-Valley Haven, and they are always so grateful to receive the bikes,” notes Ignacio Vallejo Jr., the Associate Director of TurningWheels for Kids. He says TWFK expects to give out a total of 4,500 new bikes by the end of the year.
Supportive businesses can help needy children as well as their own companies by sponsoring a tax-deductible Corporate Bike Build managed by TWFK. These events combine special team-building exercises with hands-on bike assembly that builds stronger employee bonds as well as bikes.
Unlike some programs, TWFK builds new bikes only using high-quality components bought at reasonable prices from reputable bicycle dealers. “A lot of the children receiving bikes most likely don’t have lots of nice things,” notes Vallejo Jr. “We want to give them a brand new quality bike.”
TWFK partners with foster care organizations, food pantries, and other organizations that can identify families in need. Despite its small size—TWFK has only one full-time employee—the organization makes a huge impact on the community, Vallejo Jr. says. That is only possible thanks to donors and volunteers.
“The TWFK volunteers truly have a passion for bikes and serving the community,” says Vallejo Jr. “There is always someone willing to help make whatever we need happen.”
Perhaps because of its small size, TWFK is always open to new ideas from donors and volunteers. One school group that wanted to help, for example, did a candy sales fundraiser, while a Girl Scout troop had a bake sale.
“We really rely on those who can donate, even just a little,” he says. “We would not be able to do it without all the wonderful donors who open their hearts to children they may never meet.”
Because so many new bicycles are built and distributed during December, TWFK gets a thick stack of thank you letters from children or their parents every January. He knows from experience that the bicycle built by TWFK and its supporters is sometimes the only holiday gift a child gets.
This holiday season, with the help of 1,000 volunteers, TWFK plans to build 2,500 bikes and give them out to parents for their children. That one gift can make a huge difference, he says. “The kids are excited because they can ride with their friends; they can be included.”
For more information about TurningWheels For Kids, including the Big Bike Build December 2 in San Jose, visit http://turningwheelsforkids.org.