Last Holiday Season, my husband and son did something truly cool with their Boy Scout Troop.  They spent a Saturday with the Turning Wheels group, assembling donated bikes for children who, without this gift, might not be receiving anything under the tree.  In one day 800 volunteers assembled over 2500 bicycles, all for kids who needed them.  Eric and David came home lit up with enthusiasm and a dose of the true spirit of the holidays, giving.

Team San Jose generously donated the South Hall for the annual build.

Team San Jose generously donated the South Hall for the annual build.

They were so pumped up by a day of making a difference that nine months later when Eric heard of fundraising dinner for the newly established TriValley branch of Turning Wheels he asked me to book a sitter so we could go.  What? Eric asking to go spend money at a fundraiser? Color me impressed.

Turning Wheels For Kids is an organization begun in Santa Clara, California by a woman who felt the potential pathos laden in the question, “What did you get for Christmas?”  Sue Runsvold founded Turning Wheels in a ceaseless effort of compassion to supply an answer, “A bike.”

As Eric and I drove to the silent auction and fundraising dinner, we talked about what owning our first bike had meant for each of us.  Growing up, a bicycle is often the first item of real note many of us own. Cars, boats, houses, if we’re fortunate, all of those come later, but the road to independence begins with a bike.

I can still remember the feeling of pride and excitement the day my mom took the training wheels off my bike.  I sped up the street one way, only to race back down the other, wind in my hair, ear-to-ear grin on my face.  Not only was owning a bike the pinnacle of coolness for my third grade self, but I was going places!  I was mobile. I could go to friends’ homes.  Later I was consumed with going to 7-11 for bubble gum. It was a step toward adulthood, even though at that point I was only focused on how much fun I was having.

Bikes are an important part of healthy living, getting children away from the siren call of the video game screen.  It’s important that we as adults get our kids back outside for active, often interactive, play.  Their skills in learning to ride, do tricks, go faster, all build children’s self-esteem and confidence.  Also, I have to be honest, there are mornings when I am very thankful that my gang of three prefer to ride their bikes to school.  Sometimes the extra five minutes alone with a cup of tea is a life saver as I embark upon my busy day.

This excerpt is taken from the Turning Wheels For Kids website:

“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.”

Please visit the website below to help.  Or email:

Santa Clara chapter-

TriValley Chapter:

Why not start a chapter of your own? Now there’s a thought!

It takes about $100 per recipient to purchase a bike, helmet and bike lock.  Thanks to corporate partners, your donations go 100% to bikes, nothing else.  Speaking of businesses doing neat things, check with your own employer to see if they have a corporate donation matching plan.

As you can see this is a group making a difference, one bike at a time, changing lives.  We may not be able to solve the big problems so easily, but, by golly, we can make Christmas happier, one kid at a time.

Eric and I have a lot of “stuff” so this year we’re going to be asking our relatives to make a donation to Turning Wheels for us.  They’ll get a tax write-off, we’ll get to help, and somewhere out there another child will have the same ecstatic rush I did that Christmas so long ago when I saw Santa Claus had brought me a BIKE!

Naturally, there is only one song appropriate in this situation.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Bicycle Race” by the one and only Queen.

“Now, get on your bikes and ride!!!”

You never forget how to ride a bike.