During the wet, cold months this winter, third-graders from 13 area elementary schools will get to participate in a character-building program that will earn them a brand new bicycle and helmet.
“This is a character and morale-building program at its heart,” said Brittne Stevens, community coordinator for Bikes for Kids, a national program started in 2002. “Third grade is when students switch from learning to read to reading to learn, they are tested, and it’s sometimes more stressful.”
Bikes for Kids aims to alleviate some of that stress and remind students that others believe in them.
All of the 10 Title I elementary schools in Rockingham County, as well as three that data-wise are close to being Title I, are participating in the Bike for Kids program. Third-grade teachers will be provided with a curriculum consisting of character-building books and classroom instruction materials, which they can incorporate in class as they see fit. The program will start in late January or early February and culminate with an awards assembly in March.
Students will participate in an essay competition with the assumption that three third-graders from each school will be chosen to receive a bike and helmet. What the students do not realize, though, is that every third-grader in each participating school will actually receive a bike. Bikes for Kids wishes to keep that a secret for the children and not ruin their surprise.
Stevens found out about Bikes for Kids through one of her husband’s co-workers, Bob Krumroy, one of the program’s founders.
“The more I learned, I knew we needed this program in Rockingham County,” said Stevens, who graduated from McMichael High School and lives in Madison.
She met with the school board and officials from the Rockingham County school system for approval and enlisted the help of Drew Barefoot, president of Powell-Barefoot Agency in Reidsville, to get the program up and running.
“Drew has been instrumental in connecting major players to make this a success,” Stevens said.
When Barefoot viewed videos of past events and learned more about the program, he felt compelled to get involved.
“Realizing that almost all of the elementary schools in Rockingham County are Title I or right over the margin of being one, and learning they could benefit from this program was another great reason to get involved,” Barefoot said. “Knowing we can possibly change the trajectory of these students’ futures by funding this program and hosting these events is why I am working so hard to get this completed.”
It costs $6,000 per school to offer Bikes for Kids, and Stevens said they have raised more than $50,000 so far. The $6,000 raised per school covers all costs of the program — curriculum materials, bikes, helmets and shipping costs. There is no overhead for the program, and 100 percent of the money is program-driven.
“We have had some very generous local business owners and organizations donate, as well as individuals who have stepped up to raise money,” Stevens said. “We are over halfway there, but we need to close the gap between now and the end of January.”
Volunteers also will be needed to help assemble bikes when they are shipped this spring.
“This is a grassroots effort,” Stevens said. “There has been a great deal of strife with many schools, and this is an exciting way to bring our community together for our youth and show we are with them and for them.”