May is National Bike Month, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to share the story of why Wish For Wheels exists.

“We all remember our first bike.” This is something we say a lot.

Even beyond remembering the actual machine, you remember the feeling of getting up on those wheels, balancing, and taking off for the first time. You may remember the thrill of racing down the street or sidewalk with the wind in your hair – feeling like the world was bigger, more open, more YOURS.

At Wish for Wheels, we exist to bring that feeling to thousands of children who attend Title I Schools (those that serve a population with 40% or more free and reduced lunch – a traditional marker of how many children are living in poverty). Title I is a federal funding program designed to ensure that every child receives the same access, despite high concentrations of poverty.

About 13% of Colorado kids are living in poverty, and many more are low-income without the discretionary income to buy bikes. In Colorado, we’ve recently made it part of our mission to give a new bike to EVERY 2nd grader in EVERY Title I Elementary School in Denver Public Schools for the next 5 years, through our corporate partnerships. We believe that having a bike and experiencing the activity and exercise that comes with riding a bike, can make a world of difference in kids’ lives.

Here’s what I mean…

  • Neurological Benefits
    We know that riding a bike is good for your physical body, but did you know how amazingly beneficial it is to your brain? The endorphins and serotonin released during a ride can be medically significant. There have been many studies that show mood increases, effectiveness in the treatment of disease, and even in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
  • Physical activity in high-poverty communities
    Although Colorado is known for its super active and outdoorsy adults, its kids in low-income households are among the most inactive, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Wish for Wheels seeks to break down (giving out free bikes!) some of the barriers that cause these statistics and increase access to healthy activities (biking!).
  • Access/Transportation
    Students in low-income communities often lack access to transportation, or it can be expensive and/or time-consuming. Riding a bike to school can be beneficial to individual health, but also to the wallet. Plus, there are additional benefits, like enjoying the feeling of independence and self-confidence.
  • Joy
    What better reason is there to ride a bike, but for the sheer joy of it? And the joy of gifting a brand-new, free bike (that comes with access to a world of benefits) simply can’t be beaten.
    So, in the spirit of that… join us! So many more kids could use a bike in their life – in any community. Your organization or company can sign up during National Bike Month to build and gift bikes to kids.

Brad Appel is the founder and CEO of Wish for Wheels, whose mission, through the gift of a new bicycle, is to transform the lives of kids from low-income families, broadening their scope for personal growth and a healthy lifestyle.