McWhinney and Denver nonprofit donate bikes to Winona Elementary School second graders

September 21, 2021 Posted In

By Austin Fleskes for Reporter Herald

No matter how Winona Elementary School’s second grade class got to school Monday morning, they had a new way to get home by the end of the day after McWhinney and a Denver nonprofit donated bikes to all of them.

Wish for Wheels, which operates in the Denver metro area and the Front Range, works to provide a new bicycle and helmet to lower-income second graders, “broadening their scope for personal growth and a healthy lifestyle.”

“Our entire purpose is to empower kids, families and communities,” said Brad Appel, founder of Wish for Wheels.

Companies like McWhinney can provide a donation that goes to getting the bikes and then Wish for Wheels comes out to the company to have employees build the bikes themselves as a team-building exercise. The bikes are then hand-delivered to each student at a selected school, with members from the donating company helping kids get settled into their new bikes and, if the child does not know how to ride, helping them learn to ride it.

Appel said the organization has seen that donating bikes is more than just transportation, saying that having them has helped kids be more responsible and improves school attendance.

“We are thinking about community, transportation, adventure, responsibility, happiness and fun,” Appel said. “By giving a brand new bike and a helmet to a second grader it gives them transportation … and (a way) to be part of the community with their friends. We encourage that these kids will ride together in a group and help each other get to school.”

Appel brought out 40 boxes of to-be-assembled Kent bikes to the parking lot of McWhinney’s Loveland office and had the team unload the boxes. The employees then got to work putting together the bikes.

Employees worked in pairs to put them together, even starting the construction off with a challenge; one person worked blindfolded and was instructed by their partner who was not allowed to touch the bike. After the first blind build, those gathered put the rest of the bikes together with normal vision before quality testing to make sure each bike was riding-ready.

Celeste Smith, senior marketing director, said while McWhinney had planned to run this donation earlier, the pandemic put it on hold slightly. But she said the company was happy they were able to do it now.

“Loveland is an important city in which we develop and build community,” she said. “What a better way than to work with Thompson School District and help some kids in need.”

“I think that’s the whole point, giving back to the community,” said Jacey McDaniel, marketing manager.

Ginger Dodge, multifamily operations coordinator, said that she thought the entire idea was fantastic. She added it is even more incredible that McWhinney was leading it and having people free to do it on company time.

“I would do it if I wasn’t being paid,” she said with a chuckle.

After production and group photos were done the bikes were put back into the truck they came in and driven out to Winona Elementary School.

Once all the bikes were set up, each with a helmet, the second grade students were led outside to claim their new rides.

Winona principal Kim Tymkowych said this is not the first time Wish for Wheels has come out to her elementary school. She added, though, that the entire thing promotes health and wellness for the students and provides them with something they may not have access to.

“Hopefully we are getting them away from the TVs and (outside),” she said.

Sacia Smith, a second-grade teacher at Winona, said the kids have been excited all day, adding “they (were) just jumping out of their seat excited.”

“This is amazing,” she said. “(It is) so amazing and so generous.”

The second grade class spent the end of their school day riding around on their new bikes, some of them for the very first time. Parents gathered to watch the kids smile and laugh as they zipped around the parking lot.

Katrina Thomas’ son Ryland was one of the kids to get a bike. She said that she thinks the whole thing is awesome, as there are many kids who don’t have their own bike.

“I have never heard of a charity doing this,” she said.

Jon Martin said when his daughter Daecian Judge brought home the news she would be getting a free bike, he thought she was joking.

“It’s awesome,” he said. “Another thing to love about Colorado.”

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