SPRING LAKE – Third- graders at W.T. Brown and T.C. Berrien elementary schools were given new bicycles Friday as part of a three-year program to teach character building.
The national Bikes for Kids Foundation partnered with local sponsors to give 50 bikes to the students.
The students at both schools had been told that three winners would be awarded bicycles in an essay contest. The three winning essays were read out loud during an assembly.
Throughout the assembly, high school seniors from Pine Forest and Terry Sanford high school spoke about their college plans and encouraged the third-graders to get good grades.
As the third winner was announced, school representatives, Bikes for Kids Foundation representatives and the sponsors huddled at the front of the multipurpose room to discuss a possible fourth winner.
The children grew silent in anticipation before the group turned around to cry out “Everyone gets a bike!” The room erupted into applause and tears as the curtain pulled back to reveal the new bicycles with helmets on the stage.
While the third-graders sat on the floor staring at their new bikes, they were reminded they had earned them. They had all written essays after reading the book, “Think Big. Work Hard. Be Kind. No Excuses’’ and were told they could achieve what they wanted in life if they were willing to work hard.
Olde Fayetteville Insurance brought the Bikes for Kids Foundation to Cumberland County after learning about the impact the foundation was making across the state in other school districts.
The Bikes for Kids Foundation, based in Greensboro, has given almost 19,000 bikes to students in North Carolina this year, and it has impacted thousands more since its inception in 2002. The national foundation was co-founded by Meadowlark Lemon of Harlem Globetrotters fame and provides bikes and helmets to Title I third graders as the first step in a three-year character-building program, the Cumberland County School system said in a release.
“We were brought this program by a company we represent for life insurance. This is the first school in Cumberland County that has partnered with Bikes for Kids, and we are honored to be a part of this program as a sponsor,” said Paige Ross, marketing and business development director for Olde Fayetteville Insurance. “The children have been working in the curriculum for three months; however, it has been two years in the making with COVID delays. It is great to see the concepts of character building put into place and even better that the foundation shadows the children for three years.”
Robert Krumroy, president of the Bikes for Kids Foundation, said the foundation bases the reward program on need. Third-graders are chosen because that is the year that children begin receiving grades and are reading to learn.
“We hope to have an influence in their most significant year. It is our hope that we can help stop generational poverty by teaching the children starting in that crucial year these important lessons,” Krumroy said. “This is more than a bike giveaway. This is a three-year journey of character building, creating dreams, building confidence and instilling hope.”
Marvin Connelly Jr., superintendent of Cumberland County Schools, celebrated with the students alongside the cheerleaders, football players and dance team who had come from Pine Forest High School to help celebrate the event.
“During the pandemic, there was financial impact on so many families. These families may not have been able to provide a bike for their children, but because of the commitment from Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Bikes for Kids, they are all getting a bike,” Connelly said. “In our strategic plan, we identify a committed community as one of our top priorities. This is an example of how we can partner together, and Olde Fayetteville Insurance is a great partner that has been willing to invest and touch these lives and their families.”
Olde Fayetteville Insurance also credited the school system for its help.
“When we called, Dr. Connelly jumped at it, and we couldn’t have done this without him,’’ Ross said. “CCS Facilities and Operations stored the bikes and delivered them. They were a fantastic group to help us.”
The principals from both schools shared the excitement from the giveaway.
“It means so much to me for someone to do something special like this for my babies. We work so hard to give them everything they need, and for Olde Fayetteville Insurance and Bikes for Kids to bring them this early Christmas present means the world,” said Shanessa Fenner, principal of W.T. Brown Elementary School.
Kim Robertson, principal of T.C. Berrien, echoed those sentiments.
“Just being able to see the surprise and awe on their faces was amazing,’’ she said. “Our school motto is ‘Work hard and be smart’ and this put that phrase into practice. This is one of the best hands-on teaching opportunities of a lifetime. Our students are learning that hard work pays off.”
The assembly was emotional as the children received their bicycles.
“There was a little boy on the first row who was holding his paper and when they announced the last winner, he was almost crying with sadness. When they announced that everyone was going to get a bike, his tears of sadness became tears of joy,” Connelly said.
Krumroy said the organization would like to expand the program in Cumberland County.
“We will be in five schools in Cumberland County next year,’’ he said. “We’re hoping for 10-15. We don’t have paid executives or overhead expenses. Everything from travel to meals is out of our own pocket. Our sponsors know that if they put $1,000 or $10,000 in, it is going straight into the bicycles, books and helmets. We even print our own books so we can keep that cost down.”
For one third-grader at W.T. Brown, this effort means he is on an equal playing field with his classmates because they all worked hard for their reward.
“I am excited because all of my friends got a bike today, not just me,” said Justin Butler.
His friend Joseph Lawrence, a student at T.C. Berrien, was ready, too. “I feel excited, and I can’t wait to ride it!”
For more information on the Kids for Bikes Foundation go to www.bikesforkidsfoundation.org or call 336-398-2212.
Jami McLaughlin covers Spring Lake for CityView TODAY. She can be reached at email@example.com.