A small gymnasium packed with screaming children might not sound appealing. But, when the hoots of excitement come from kids picking out their first bikes, it’s a joyful place to be.
On December 20, Old Spokes Home held the Holiday Kids Bike Bonanza at the Sustainability Academy in the heart of the Old North End. The Bonanza is designed for children from income-eligible families who do not already have a bicycle. That night, 94 children from ages 3 to 8 went home with a new-to-them bike.
Volunteers from across the city helped the kids find their perfect bike. Other ambitious volunteers helped parents and guardians juggle paperwork, sometimes across language barriers. A photo area was even set up to document the special moments. Instead of taking pictures with a big guy in a fake beard, every kid was given the opportunity to have a photo commemorating the day they got their first bike - and their smiles lit up the room.
Each child also received a helmet from Local Motion that they then decorated with a random assortment of stickers. Local Motion volunteers noted that kids tend to wear their helmets more when they are given the opportunity to decorate them.
Some of the kids in attendance were being chaperoned not only by their parents, but also by teachers from their schools, most notably from the Winooski school district, which helped sign up 50 children!
All of the kids who received bikes at the Bonanza are eligible to bring them to the Old Spokes Home Community Workshop, which is where they can receive reduced-cost repairs and parts. The Old Spokes Home Mobile Repair Unit will also go to many low-income housing neighborhoods in the Summer and repairs will be done there for free. Another way Bike-Bonanza love gets extended is through Youth Shop, which is a drop-in program where kids volunteer in the shop for an hour and then receive help fixing their bikes for an hour.
A heartfelt thanks goes out to the numerous volunteers and Old Spokes Home mechanics who fixed up more than 150 bikes for the event. Any bikes that weren’t given out at the Bonanza will go back to Old Spokes and be distributed at future events. A second Bike Bonanza will happen in May of this year and coincides with New American Safety Day, which is sponsored by The UVM Children’s Hospital Pediatric New American Clinic. Stay tuned for details on how to get involved!
Big thanks to:
Julie at the Sustainability Academy at Lawrence Barnes for all of her hard work promoting the event, registering families, and managing the space.
the many wonderful teachers, parents, staff, and faculty who got the word out through their schools and communities.
our friends at Local Motion for the helmets and decorations.
our steadfast volunteer mechanics!
our volunteer group from the Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission.
Doug Goodman Photography for capturing the Bonanza magic.