My favorite days at Wish for Wheels are hands-down the days we get to give away bikes to 2nd graders in Title I schools.  I wanted to hear a little more about what the gift of a bike can mean to a child — the longer-lasting impacts. So I connected with a teacher from one of the Denver Public Schools partners. Marlene Plesko, a teacher at Knapp Elementary School honored our mission with her thoughtful responses. Marlene will also be speaking at our Block Party fundraiser this month!

What did you enjoy the most about the day your students received bikes from Wish for Wheels?

Two kids on Wish for Wheels bikes

Knapp Elementary School students receive a free bike and helmet from Wish for Wheels.

We chose to surprise our students last May with their Wish for Wheels experience. Parents were notified ahead of time but everyone managed to keep it as one big, amazing secret. I will never forget walking our 2nd graders out to the playground where they saw 80 bikes and helmets waiting for them. One student pulled me close and whispered “but Miss, my mom can’t afford that bike.” Getting to tell that kid that it was his, for free, and watching his face light up in disbelief was one of my favorite moments in my 15 years of teaching. Watching 80 students ride around the playground and track was magical.

Studies have shown, and I have watched in my years as a teacher, that poverty has real and long-term effects on the mental and physical health of kids. By giving my students bikes and helmets, they have a tangible outlet to contribute to the improvement of their physical and mental health. Bikes can help students burn off stressful energy, build physical and mental endurance, and experience FUN. All of these are needs that my students deserve to have filled.

What have your students shared about their experience?
As the 2018-2019 school year came to a close in May, students constantly reflected that their best day of 2nd grade was getting their new bikes. They couldn’t stop talking about how exciting it was, how happy they were, and how appreciative they were to the donors who made it all possible. Many kids learned to ride a bike that day! As the new school year has begun, several students have come up, still thanking me for the bike they got in May. I have heard about the fun adventures they had riding with friends over the summer to parks or riding with siblings in the neighborhood.

What impact did this experience have on your school community?
One of the most special aspects of this experience was watching my kids feel SEEN. Living in a highly poverty-impacted neighborhood can be a very stressful experience for some of our kids. When they got on their bikes and interacted with our amazing donors, the kids beamed with pride. They were all able to feel special and valued that afternoon.

Have you seen more students riding before or after school?
I have definitely noticed more bikes out in the neighborhood as a result of our Wish for Wheels experience. Whether it is the students who received the bikes or siblings on their own bikes, there have been more bikes locked up at the bike rack outside of school than I ever noticed before.

What about the Wish for Wheels mission resonates with you?
When I first encountered Wish for Wheels at a cycling event several years ago, I was immediately drawn to their mission to provide bikes to ALL kids, especially to those living in highly impoverished neighborhoods like mine. Some of the students at my school live lives that most of us can’t even imagine. They deal with stresses beyond their years and live through experiences that would crush even the strongest of adults. Despite all of this, they show up to school each day with a smile on their face and they work so hard to be successful. They deserve to feel the joy and freedom of being on a bike.

Brad Appel is the Founder of Wish for Wheels, whose mission, through the gift of a new bicycle and helmet, is to transform the lives of 2nd graders from low-income communities, broadening their scope for personal growth and a healthy lifestyle. Join us to fund, build, and give away bikes to kids! Get started here!