In 2003, Susan Runsvold set out to ensure that no child would have to experience a Christmas without any cool and exciting gifts, an experience that she feared herself when she was young. Since then, her vision has expanded, as she discovered that bicycles–one of the coolest gifts a child can receive for Christmas–can have a more profound impact on children’s lives than she first imagined.
Her original vision was to buy bikes at Christmas and give them to underprivileged children, children she believed might otherwise not receive any present from Santa. She began what she hoped would be a tradition of collecting money from her friends and colleagues to purchase as many bikes as possible for holiday distribution. The first year, she bought 12 brand-new bikes and gave them to children. She soon realized that beyond the immediate thrill of Christmas morning, these bikes bring children independence, confidence, a fun way to exercise, and a sense of adventure that nothing else could quite match.
But the story doesn’t end there. In 2005, Susan asked an amazing group of volunteers—many of whom now comprise the TurningWheels for Kids board—to help flesh out her dream. With a resounding “Yes!” from the team, TurningWheels For Kids (TWFK) was born. The unbelievable success of this group has resulted in more than 13,000 bikes being built and given to local children.
And as with all good ideas, the mission has grown. Today, TurningWheels For Kids distributes bikes not only at the holiday but also year round through a number of partnerships focused on preventing childhood obesity and supporting low-income families.
TurningWheels For Kids has partnered with the Pediatric Healthy Lifestyle Center of the Valley, part of the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and Bay Area Women’s Sport’s Initiative (BAWSI), to encourage outdoor activity—like riding a bike to school or to hang out with friends—as a way to improve children’s health and well-being.
“We must recognize that the epidemic of childhood obesity is connected to sedentary pastimes: TVs, computers, texting, and video games,” says Sue. “We must hit a reset button and bring children back outdoors to experience the fun we all remember from our childhoods. We must give children the opportunity to share bike riding as an important childhood rite of passage. And as the number one gift requested by these children, bikes can bring kids back outdoors to active play—exactly what a child should be doing.”
Every person on the Board of TWFK gives tirelessly and with great generosity, both time and money, to advance this program. Raleigh America works with us, right at our side, to help us provide great, sturdy, safe bikes and helmets to children who would otherwise not have their own bike. Raleigh is an amazing and generous company. The community, both business and individuals, come out, year after year, to support our efforts and make dreams come true. Team San Jose has generously donated the South Hall for our Big Bike Build year after year. The list goes on and on—please see our Partners page.
Help us help local children. Make a donation today to our Buck for a Bike campaign, or submit your email address to Sue@turningwheelsforkids.org so you can stay on top of our volunteer opportunities and activities.