The perfect combo = 60 Bikes4Christmas this year—and lessons. SBBIKE's education programs are providing knowledge, skills, and memories that will last a lifetime.
Give a kid a bike, great. Teach a kid to bike too, and you share a skill for a lifetime! That combo—and the fact that SBBIKE can do it 60 times over at three locales this Christmas—is, for Education Director Christine Bourgeois, “huge.” What’s more, grants and donations are all that’s needed to exponentially increase the teaching/giveaway combo in 2019.
Bike4Christmas started in 2011 when SBBIKE provided bicycles for a party at Franklin Neighborhood Center. Bourgeois, as always, was thrilled to get bicycles under the seats of young people who wouldn’t otherwise have them. Still, something was missing.
Fast-forward seven years. SBBIKE’s bike education programs are in 29 schools. “We’re teaching those kids a life skill,” Bourgeois says. The programs have highlighted the need for the flip side of the combo. “We realized many kids don’t have a bike at home,” she notes. “So they can’t practice.” When Audacious Foundation, who’s purchased fleets of bikes for the schools, saw the extent of the need, it gave funds to help SBBIKE recycle youth bicycles. Bourgeois saw a turning point. “We’re finally doing exactly what we want,” she says. “We give a bike, but it’s more than a bike. It’s something they can keep forever.”
Plus, there’s the lesson of giving and receiving. “They’re 7 and 8 years old, and they’ll remember,” says Bourgeois.
She’s also stoked on the ability to serve a wide swath of the community. This year’s giveaways will be in Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Santa Barbara. “As a countywide organization, we’re reaching different communities and changing the generations coming up around us."
One more important piece is collaboration. “It’s not just something we’re doing alone,” says Bourgeois. Along with Audacious Foundation’s support, people have donated bicycles and funds, grants have been attained, the Santa Maria landfill has allowed Santa Maria Bici Centro to regularly retrieve and recycle abandoned bicycles, and individual and business volunteers who want to help make a change have done the wrenching.
A team of LogMeIn engineers helped refurbish the 24 bikes needed for third graders at Adams Elementary this week. At Bonita Elementary School (between Guadalupe and Santa Maria), a grant from North County and Santa Maria Bici Centro spoke wranglers will repair 16 much-needed rides. Of the 25 second graders, 15 didn’t know how to ride. Almost all had never owned a bike. The excited principal and teachers are preparing an event for the giveaway, for parents and kids with a presentation in Spanish. At La Canada in Lompoc, 20 third graders will receive new rides.
Bourgeois looks forward to continuing the momentum. And you can help. “If you make a donation, we’ll put more kids on bikes,” she says. Along with staff for repairs, instructing, program installation, and distribution, each recipient receives a helmet and a lock. “We’re always looking for funding,” she adds with a smile. “We want to reach more and more schools, more and more kids.”
CAPTIONS: 1. Looking back - A handful of young people, like this young man, received bicycles from Santa at Franklin Neighborhood Center during the first Bike4Christmas giveaway in 2011. CHRISTINE BOURGEOIS. 2. Bici SB and Bici SM staff, along with community volunteers, have been wrenching and cleaning to get the 60 bikes to be distributed shiny and ready to go. Here, a few are being loaded from the SB shop for delivery. PAUL MIHALEC