Larkspur’s Corporate Visions teamed up with Marin City group Performing Stars to deliver deserving elementary school students new bicycles during a family biking workshop over the weekend.
To receive the bikes Bayside Martin Luther King Jr. Academy second, third and fourth-grade students were asked to write letters explaining why they should be given a new bike, said Felecia Gaston, founder of Performing Stars of Marin.
“Corporate Visions purchased the bikes and employees put the bikes together at a hotel in Napa for a team building experiences,” Gaston said.
The bikes come from San Jose-based TurningWheels For Kids that holds bicycle-assembling corporate team building activities and encourages cycling as a way to improve health and well-being for low-income families.
Even with an abundance of electronic devices and available technology, bikes are still the most requested gift item said TurningWheels For Kids’ Robyn Bartkowski.
“There is something special about a bike and the freedom that a bike gives children,” Bartkowski said.
When the bike recipients become involved, the corporate bike building events come full circle, and the adults can see what a bike means to a child.
“They are able to see the reaction of how important these bikes are to these kids,” she said. “It is just incredible impact. It so much more than just building a bike it is building bike.”
Charlotte Kobayashi from Corporate Visions said 125 employees from around the globe gathered in Napa to the company’s kick off to learn about the enterprise.
“We had no idea what were doing. First we had to do a scavenger hunt to find 100 different items to bring to Robyn, who was running the event,” Kobayashi said. “It was a team effort to put the bicycles together and some of us had never done it before.”
The employees took about an hour to put the bikes together, some consulting the web for instruction, then went back inside to continue the conference. Hours later the company returned outside and were only told a special visitor was coming.
“Nine children from Marin City came walking in with Felecia,” Kobayashi said. “We were kind of baffled until Felicia said the bicycles were built for these children and they were going to take them back to Marin City for students who deserved them.”
Corporate Visions founder Joe Terry said the bike building was more meaningful than donating money or serving food in a food bank.
“Building the bikes it is an activity you are actually building something, creating something that you are going to the give back to the community,” Terry said.
The bicycles were taken to Marin City for the Feb. 14 family biking workshop that grew to include safe instruction from Marin County’s Safe Routes to Schools staff. Instructors helped fit bike helmets and conducted bike handling skills drills.
The Marin County Sheriff’s Department, Deputy Sheriff’s Association, offered to register all of the new bikes, and Sausalito’s Mikes Bikes provided locks for the new bikes.
TurningWheels for Kids is committed to bring joy into the lives of children through the simple at of providing new bicycles during the holiday season to every underprivileged and health challenged child in Santa Clara County. Click the flyer below to download the pdf.
SAN JOSE — The driveway was still damp from a week’s worth of rain when Jim Schallau, an avid cyclist, led two teenage boys into the garage for their early Christmas gifts — two new mountain bikes still in the cardboard boxes.
Isidro and Jesus Cazarez beamed and touched the boxes a bit awkwardly, not sure what to do next. The boxes didn’t bear gift tags or any markings they were donated by TurningWheels for Kids, a charity that expects to give 2,700 bikes to low-income children this season.
“But you have to help me put them together,” Schallau said.
“Of course we’ll help,” said Isidro, a talkative 16-year-old.
And with that agreement, the retired engineer and Korean War veteran with 98,000 cycling miles behind him, got to work assembling the bicycles with the two low-income boys from across town who had never owned a decent bike until Saturday morning. The last one they shared was stolen years ago.
“We kind of gave up on bikes after that,” Isidro said.
The bikes were assembled in a couple of hours with extra help from Marge Schallau, Jim’s wife and cycling companion, and Tony Le, a Stanford Medical School researcher and president of the Amaden Cycle Touring Club.
Not only did the boys learn some of the mechanics of bicycle ownership, they heard all sorts of cycling tales from Le and the Schallaus, from touring across beautiful countrysides to surviving crashes. The latter were meant to persuade the boys to wear their new helmets, which came with the bikes.
“You don’t have to worry about me,” Isidro, who told them a story of his own. A girl he knew back in 5th grade was killed in a collision with a car. “She wasn’t wearing a helmet. All the kids in school were shaken up.”
After a test ride, the boys were ready to go.
Lots of children will receive their TurningWheels bikes from nonprofit organizations that work directly with low-income families and select the recipients. This year, the charity, started by Santa Clara Valley Medical Center nurse Sue Runsvold, introduced a nomination process for individuals, clubs and others. That’s how the Cazarez boys got their bikes.
The Schallaus met their mother, Martina Palomino, about 14 years ago through a program at Sacred Heart Community Services in San Jose that connects needy families with volunteers willing to help in personal and practical ways.
“I was pregnant with Jesus when they adopted me!” Palomino, 38, said in Spanish in a telephone interview. “It has been the greatest blessing in my life to have met this couple.”
She said the Schallaus have taught her how to supervise her sons’ homework assignments and motivate them to succeed in school, navigate bureaucracies, hunt for affordable housing and manage her modest finances.
“I have known their family for 14 years and theirs has been a tough life,” Jim Schallau wrote in a touching, winning nomination to TurningWheels. “Their father has not been part of the family for many years and their mother struggles to provide a home and food for the boys. . . I am certain that new bikes for Isidro and Jesus will make this a Christmas that they and their mother will never forget.”
LOTS OF ASSEMBLING
Palomino cleans houses and cares for an elderly, housebound man on weekends. She and the boys live in an apartment in south San Jose. The two families have stayed in touch even after the program that brought them together ended.
Jim Schallau had been volunteering to assemble bikes for TurningWheels for eight years, never getting to see kids when they actually received their bikes. So he jumped at the chance to nominate the Cazarez boys.
“These bikes will get the boys to school and will help their mother, too,” he said.
Palomino said she often has to interrupt her cleaning jobs to drive Isidro to school, where he is enrolled in independent studies and doesn’t follow a traditional schedule.
“I’m always asking her for rides to meet my friends,” Isidro said as he straddled his shiny, new black 21-speed bike. “I can tell when she’s too tired and irritated, but she drives me anyway. This will definitely help my mom.”
And the bikes will help the two families continue their friendship. Their first official ride together would be to look for the safest routes from the boys’ home to their schools, followed by long rides on South Bay bike trails and bike paths. But for now, the boys were relishing their new wheels.
“It’s cool,” Jesus said after his first test ride, “really cool.”
Contact Joe Rodriguez at 408-920-5767. Follow him at Twitter.com/joerodmercury.
Nobody does it quite like @google. @turningwheels4kids Thanks you for building 90 bikes for @boysandgirlsclub #southbay. I knew it was gonna be a wonderful day when it started out with Gandalf guarding my parking spaces..#google#boysandgirlsclub #southbay #turningwheelsforkids#charity #christmas #christmasbikes #gandalf — atGoogle Campus.