For many young kids, a shiny new bicycle means their first taste of freedom as they pedal around their neighborhoods, meet friends, or make their own way to school each day.
Almost 150 employees from the Riverside County Office of Education (RCOE) who work in the divisions of Student Programs and Services and Children and Family Services, came together as part of their annual leadership conference to build bicycles and tricycles that will be given to 25 foster children throughout Riverside County.
“Kids will enjoy the bikes, and employees enjoyed building them,” said Anny Yates, a Special Education Principal for RCOE in the Perris area. “We serve kids across the county in unfortunate circumstances. It’s exciting for us to be able to give back. A lot of our kids in foster programs do not get the opportunity to have their own bikes.”
Funding to purchase the bicycles came from sponsors that included: A Tree of Knowledge, Data Logic Designs, Lakeshore, Leading Edge Educational Foundation, and Systematic Evaluation Services. The bicycles were provided by Together We Rise, a non-profit that organizes fundraisers to support children in foster care. The Riverside County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) will distribute the bicycles and tricycles, some of them preparing to enter kindergarten.
“DPSS is honored to be the recipient of bicycles for our kids in foster care,” said Michelle Wohl, Regional Manager for DPSS, which supervises more than 5,000 children in foster care. “There is nothing more exciting than learning to ride a bike. Now our kids in foster care will experience the joy and excitement of riding a bike and, more importantly, the opportunity to feel like a regular kid.”
Wohl said many people are not aware that many foster children lack the basic necessities — a backpack for their school supplies or a suitcase to carry clothes and personal items — much less a bicycle.
“Some of our kids have never had the pleasure of even sitting on the seat on a bicycle,” she said. “In the past we have had older kids who needed transportation, and we were able to get bikes for them, but they didn’t know how to ride them. That’s a skill best learned when you are young. Imagine being a 17- or 18-year-old kid and not knowing how to ride a bike.”
Now, with the donation from RCOE, youngsters will start receiving their bicycles in time to enjoy long summer days and ride with confidence before school begins in the fall.