By Jean Janes
There are few images as iconic of childhood as a new bike, from learning how to ride to the independence and freedom a bike signifies. For some, that formative experience is all but out of reach due to financial circumstances and limited opportunity. In an effort to change that for children across the country, the Golden State Foods (GSF) Foundation, a non-profit organization established for the benefit of those in need, has started Build-A-Bike.
The Build-A-Bike event joins volunteers, community, and families together to provide these deserving kids with bikes, as well as also instilling in them the pride of building, maintaining, and retaining accountability of their new bike. By understanding what it takes to construct a bike, kids will have a more in-depth understanding of how each part is necessary to the function of the whole, just as their communities have coordinated to create the Build-A-Bike experience on their behalf.
This Armed Forces Day, May 17, the GSF Foundation will hold Build-A-Bike events nationally, including one at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM). Laura Kniss and Anna Beyder, associates at GSF, explain the motivation and process of Build-A-Bike, and what it means to the bicycle recipients and their communities.
May 17, 2014 will be the second year that the GSF Foundation has produced the Build-A-Bike event. Last year, the Build-A-Bike held in Sumner was a great success. Kniss recalls, “What an amazing day to be able to build 25 new bikes with kids ages six to eleven and even to teach two of them to ride!” Such a meaningful experience will not soon be forgotten for the children or the volunteers participating. To help create an experience as poignant and life changing as learning how to ride a bike for the first time must be life changing for the volunteer as well.
The GSF Foundation is making a point to reach out to the military this year. Purposefully held on Armed Forces Day, a day focused on the recognition and appreciation of our military service members, Beyder points out that they are “working with organizations like Wounded Warriors and Homefront America.” With this focus in mind, in addition to kids from the local Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs, Beyder explains, “this year, children who have at least one parent actively serving in the military will be among those receiving new bikes.” For struggling military families, such a gift will be invaluable.
The most treasured aspect of this gift is not necessarily the bike itself, however. For the kids, helping to build their new bike inspires a solid work ethic and pride in a job well done. Beyder adds, “It teaches safety, goal setting, and the value of hard work to achieve those goals.” Not only witnessing, but also actually taking part in the construction of one’s bike will most certainly influence young minds on the true value of their new possession. Their bike will mean more because it takes time and effort to earn it. “A bike,” Beyder expands, “helps a child develop his or her sense of self-reliance, adventure, strength and character.”
Just as with a bicycle, this event requires multiple parts moving in tandem, each piece necessary and complimenting the others. Beyder expresses that this is possible “thanks to the help and support of local bike shops that act as an excellent resource for future tune-ups and safety lessons” as well as additional guidance from local police. “The success of the Build-A-Bike program is due in large part to the volunteers,” most of which are GSF associates. When the event takes place, each child will work with a volunteer, building with donated parts from participating bike shops.
Volunteers, donations, time and effort: as each of these moving parts come together to create an experience of a lifetime for these children, the community as a whole will benefit. By enriching the characters of kids in need through service, Build-A-Bike supports the families and communities as well.
Dedicated to service, Build-A-Bike represents one of many projects the GSF Foundation coordinates. “Our Foundation,” Kniss reflects, “does amazing things daily.” Providing 250 backpacks full of school supplies, over 1000 pairs of new Adidas shoes, “We love to help children and families in our community and our associates fully support the foundation and provide the resources that are necessary to make these little miracles possible.” Now for the second year, Build-A-Bike will add to the good works of the GSF Foundation.