December 23, 2014

Turning Wheels for Kids, a Bay Area nonprofit that puts bikes in the hands of disadvantaged youth, recently celebrated two major milestones: the 10th anniversary of its “bike build” event, and its largest one to date. More than 1,000 volunteers turned out December 6 at the San Jose Convention Center – South Hall to build approximately 2,700 bikes for local youngsters.

Photo courtesy Philip Bartkowski.

DPR has been involved with Turning Wheels for Kids from its inception and served as title sponsor and organizer of this year’s annual bike build day. In addition to the San Jose bike build, the group sponsored a second event in Pleasanton, where an additional 400 bikes were assembled and distributed. DPR’s Phil Bartkowski, who helped organize this year’s event, said the day was highly rewarding for all involved.

“This is a great team-building event and something that is amazing to see in person,” he commented. “You can’t have a true appreciation for what it involves until you’ve been there and seen all of these boxes turn into bright and shiny bikes at the end of the day. It’s a really cool thing to be a part of.”

More than 55 DPR employees volunteered  to build bikes. They also presented Turning Wheels For Kids with a grant for $60,000 from The DPR Foundation. Photo courtesy Philip Bartkowski.

Major Preplanning Required

While the volunteer teams resembled a well-oiled machine in motion on bike build day, preplanning for the event was extensive and began several months ahead. Many hours of volunteer time went into setting up and purchasing the bikes, determining how many bikes would go to each of the  charitable groups requesting them (which in turn distribute the bikes to children), and coordinating the logistics and details of bike build day.

On the day prior to the big event, DPR volunteers helped prepare the convention center’s South Hall. They laid tape on the floor and organized the three-football-field-long expanse of floor space to accommodate some 75 teams and a total of 1,000 volunteers. Some were experienced bike builders, while others came ready to learn through video demonstration and hands-on training. Each and every bike that was assembled was required to pass a thorough safety and quality control inspection station staffed by 50 to 60 people, before the bike was deemed fit for release.

Photo courtesy Philip Bartkowski.

Sense of Common Purpose

Bartkowski said the sense of common purpose shared by volunteers and the opportunity for team building were major benefits of the day. But the biggest reward? The chance to see the reaction of the 20 or so children who came to the event not only to receive their bikes, but also to participate in building them as well.

“Seeing the smiles on their faces was just one of those priceless, feel good moments of the whole event,” he commented. “Everybody was working so hard, sweating just to get the bikes done, and it was great to actually see some of the fruit of their labor of what this is all about.”

Photo courtesy Philip Bartkowski.