Turning Wheels for Kids

Patricia and Donald GriggsConnected

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The APCE Conference Mission Project for 2014 is Turning Wheels for Kids (TWFK). Ten years ago, Sue Runsveld, a nurse, and a few nurse friends collected enough money to purchase and build 12 bikes to give to children with health issues whose families could not afford a new bike as a Christmas present. What began as one person’s dream to help a few families has grown into a well-organized 501c3 charity sponsored by the Valley Medical Center Foundation of San Jose, CA.

For Christmas 2012 more than 1,000 volunteers showed up on a Saturday morning in December at the Convention Center in San Jose to build about 2,400 bikes. On another Saturday about 200 volunteers gathered at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton, CA, to assemble another 500 bikes. This was the first effort of a new chapter in the Tri-Valley area to respond to the needs of families there. Donald, Patricia, and Cathryn Griggs have been involved in TWFK for eight years. Cathy was the “spark plug” for forming the Tri-Valley chapter and with a board of a dozen committed volunteers spent a year planning and fund raising in order to have a successful bike build. As a result of the hard work of all the volunteers in San Jose and the Tri-Valley almost 3,000 disadvantaged children received brand new bikes, helmets, and locks for Christmas.

Throughout the year there are many fund raising activities that involve a number of corporate sponsors such as Safeway, AT& T, Therma, the San Jose Sharks, the San Francisco 49ers, and others. The average cost per bike, helmet, and lock is about $100. Also, during the year bike clinics are held in the San Jose and Tri-Valley areas to help children and their parents learn how to keep their bikes in good repair and to emphasize bike safety.

It’s all about the kids. Lives are changed.

  • A boy had to ride his sister’s hand-me-down, white-tired, purple bike. The bike was skillfully transformed at the bike clinic into his brand new BMX “manned-up” bike.
  • Now a youth can ride to school, get there on time and have transportation to his job after school.
  • A boy with leukemia had to have his hip replaced. He now has his doctor’s number one recommended means for rehab—a bike to ride.
  • A father and son can ride their bikes together now. Both bikes were repaired at one of the TWFK bike clinics.
  • A child who thought there would be nothing under the Christmas tree for him this year now knows there are people who “care for kids like me.”
  • The grandma who didn’t know what she was going to do about Christmas for the children she was raising now knows that this Christmas will be different.

One of the volunteers at last year’s bike build wrote, “When I build a bike and think about the joy it will bring a child, I am filled with the hope and joy of the Christmas season. For me, Christmas begins with the Bike Build.” Another volunteer wrote, “How great was it to help all those kids get on bikes. There was more than one that tugged at my heartstrings. I couldn’t have asked for a more rewarding way to spend my Saturday. Thanks for having the vision.” One of the volunteers at last year’s Bike Build was a young man who had been a recipient of a TWFK bike several years earlier. He said, “It meant so much to me to get a new bike for Christmas that I want to help other kids have the same experience.”

In April, Turning Wheels for Kids orders bikes by the container load so that they will be available for the Bike Builds in December. The year is spent planning, organizing, and fund raising. Charities are invited to submit grant requests for the number, size, and style of bikes they need for the families they have identified as worthy recipients. The grant requests always exceed the number of bikes available, so hard decisions need to be made.

At our APCE Conference in San Jose, TWFK will be featured in several ways. At the opening plenary Sue Runsveld, founder of TWFK, will speak briefly about her vision and the present reality of the organization. There will be a Turning Wheels for Kids booth in the exhibit area where attendees can spend a few minutes or more helping to build one of the dozen or more bikes we will have at the conference. Children identified by a local charity will be present at the closing worship service to receive their new bikes. Funds raised through the offering at APCE will bring happiness and joy to many children who receive new bikes. For more information about Turning Wheels for Kids visit their website at www.turningwheelsforkids.com.

Patricia and Donald Griggs Retired Christian educators Patricia and Donald Griggs enjoy traveling and volunteering. Don and Pat live in Livermore, California.