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Education

This Teacher Raised $80,000 to Buy a New Bike for Every Kid at School

IMG_2434.jpgKatie Blomquist pictured with student at bike reveal (All images courtesy of TR Photo and Video, LLC).

When the school bell rang early last Thursday morning at Pepperhill Elementary, 650 giddy students ran out to a schoolyard full of brand new bikes — all of them free for the taking. After first-grade teacher Katie Blomquist discovered that a shocking amount of her students at the South Carolina school had never even owned a bike, she set out on a seven-month journey to provide each child with their own.

“Building up to it, I was so anxious and excited to see their reactions,” she told Global Citizen. “When the day came, the kids were screaming and hugging each other, jumping up and down.”

Last September, Blomquist created the campaign “Every Kid Deserves A Bike!” on GoFundMe, inspired by one student who couldn’t afford a bike for Christmas and a kindergartener who had to walk 30 minutes uphill everyday on the way home from school.

Read More: Want to Change a Girl’s Life in Africa? Give Her a Bicycle

“That’s when it dawned on me,” she said. “As a kid, I used to spend all my time after school riding my bike or out in the pool — it was a memory that I took for granted. And they were going to go their entire childhoods without that.”

Many students at Pepperhill, a Title I school in North Charleston, come from low-income families. Title I schools are public schools that receive financial assistance to accomodate for the high numbers of children from families struggling financially. 

“Around 90% of the families at our school are at or below the poverty line,” Blomquist explained.

South Carolina ranks 41st in the nation in child well-being, according to KIDS Count, a project of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Around 19% of third graders in Charleston test below state standards in reading — an alarming number that puts too many children at risk.

“A lot of kids don’t get new clothes, or their own beds,” she said. “So, I chose a bike because it gives them a sense of ownership.”

IMG_2381.jpgTR Photo and Video, LLC

IMG_2411.jpgTR Photo and Video, LLC

AQ7B1019.jpgTR Photo and Video, LLC

For many children in remote places across the globe, bikes can have real, sustainable impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa, bikes can play a role in encouraging school attendance, promoting economic development, and preventing child marriage.

For kids at Pepperhill, owning a bike means the possibility of creating a brighter future. Along with their new set of wheels, the children also received helmets, locks, and bells.

The original fundraising goal was set at $65,000, and in just three months, nearly 1,000 people from across the world donated more than $80,000.

Parents told Blomquist that their children used to spend their time after school playing video games or watching TV. Nowadays, they spend their afternoons riding their bikes out in the streets.

Read More: These 10 Inspirational Teachers Are Transforming Education and the World as We Know It

“It’s so nice to see them doing this healthy, productive entertainment,” she said.  

Blomquist is looking to the future with her new nonprofit, Going Places. She’s launched a fundraising page for the charity, which aims to provide underprivileged children with bikes, swimming lessons, and summer camp experiences.

“I want to reach hundreds of thousands of kids,” she told Global Citizen, “and give them the opportunity to have other forms of this basic childhood joy.”