By Joyell Nevins
La Mesa Rotary Club program peddles the holiday cheer
It was like a scene from “The Price is Right” – first, there were children sitting quietly, listening to someone else receiving a bicycle for an essay contest. Then, the curtain was pulled back and the announcement came:
“Everyone gets a bike!”
Total, utter pandemonium. Children crying, screaming, jumping up and down in total exuberance.
Am I describing the latest game show? A Disney movie? No, I’m talking about La Mesa Rotary and Bikes for Kids at Avondale Elementary.
“This was amazing – their reaction was priceless,” said Avondale principal John Ashley.
Just as it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to get them a bike, too. Bikes for Kids served as the liaison; the Rotary club purchased the 75 bikes; the Rotary and Mt. Miguel High School Interact clubs built the bikes; and Emergency Storage stored and brought the bikes to the elementary.
It took a full day the weekend before to assemble all of the bicycles…and of course the bikes had to be tested out, too (the word is, that was the most fun part of the day).
Each of the third graders had written an essay called “How to Make the World a Better Place.” They were told that the top three essays would receive brand new bicycles at a special assembly.
And that part was true. The winning ideas included recycling paper and other items, picking up after your dog (as one of the children wrote, “I used to have a dog and boy did he make a mess”), using paper instead of plastic, turning off the faucet while you’re brushing your teeth, picking up trash and enjoying a day outside.
“I could congratulate all of you – you did a great job and I wish I could choose all of the essays,” Ashley told the students at the assembly.
Eva Neder, 8, wrote that she would like to “make the world a better place by giving kids who can’t have Christmas brand new toys.” Her plan included shopping with her mom, driving around to find adults who have kids, and providing pillows and blankets for them to sleep on. Neder got part of that wish when after she got her bike, all of her classmates received a bike, too.
“I’m thankful that all my friends have bikes now, too,” she beamed.
After the three winners were awarded their bikes, a chant started in the back row (Interact students had strategically positioned themselves and were in on the secret): “One more bike, one more bike!” The emcee and Rotarian Mark Matthews conferred with Rotary president Steve Looser and said, “Okay, we found one more bike!” Another essay was read, and another bike was awarded.
But then the chant started back up (again, those pesky Interact juniors and seniors). This time, when Matthews talked with Looser, he told the students “I’m sorry, we just don’t have one more bike.” The room got quiet with a disappointed silence. Then the curtain behind Matthews opened up to reveal a stage full of bikes as he told the students, “We have all these bikes – everyone gets a bike!”
And that’s when the room erupted into pandemonium.
“I thought he meant there were no more bikes,” 8-year-old Jordyn Gillisie said. “And I was kind of sad. But when I saw all of the bikes, that’s when I got happy!”
Matthews, who actually attended Avondale Elementary when he was a kid, and the other Rotarians ‘got happy’ as well.
“It’s so exciting to see those kids so excited,” Matthews said. “One of the students came up to me and asked, ‘Do all the third graders get a bike?’ I said ‘yes!’ Then he said, ‘Do I get a bike?’ I was able to say ‘yes’ again!”
Every child received a bike helmet as well to practice good bike safety. La Mesa Rotary does a similar service project each year. For more information or to contribute to their foundation, visit lamesarotary.org.