Bike giveaway brightens GSES second-graders’ day

Imagine the childhood thrill of getting a new bike, maybe even that very first bike, multiplied by nearly a hundred.

That was the scene Friday at Glenwood Springs Elementary School, as Umbrella Roofing of Carbondale assembled and gave out 89 free bikes and helmets to every second-grade student at the school.

Through its 1% Close to Home program, the company for the past six years has dedicated 1 percent of its gross revenue to local charities and causes.

For the second straight year, Umbrella worked with the Denver-based Wish for Wheels organization for a bike giveaway, this time at GSES.

“We’ve always been a very charitable company, but in the fall of 2010, I saw a presentation on Patagonia’s 1% For the Planet and thought that was something we could do,” Umbrella owner Trevor Cannon said.

Past efforts have benefited groups such as the Buddy Program, Aspen Community Foundation, Hope Center, Raising a Reader and English in Action.

The company also helped out a retired schoolteacher with her roof, and bought a new transmission for a man who was having trouble getting to his new job during the recession, Cannon said.

By the end of this year, Umbrella will have given more than $300,000 back to the community, he said.

Last year, the company worked with the Salvation Army for a Wish for Wheels bike giveaway in Avon. On Friday, 18 of Cannon’s employees and several parent and teacher volunteers converged in front of GSES to assemble the Huffy 20-inch single-speed bikes to hand over to the eager second-graders.

“We like the bike giveaways because it’s about team building, and it’s about community building, and it’s about the kids. It’s everything we love as a company,” Cannon said. “That energy is pretty infectious.”

Stephanie Pollender is the P.E. teacher and adventure coordinator at GSES. She said the students have been talking for days about the bikes they were about to receive.

“Some of these kids don’t even know how to ride a bike yet, they’re just super excited,” she said, pointing to all the glowing faces and listening as the kids made a point to thank the helpers.

The recipients will also be learning about bike safety and doing a bike rodeo to help them develop their skills.

“This just fits in with the whole philosophy of our school, and getting kids out learning new things and taking interest in adventures,” Pollender said.

The snazzy green-on-black bike was student Logan Buendia’s first.

“I’m new in this school, so I never had anything like this before,” he said. “It’s awesome, and I really like the color.”

Logan’s classmate Genesis Valenzuela couldn’t have agreed more on the color.

“And I like my new helmet,” she said.

Added Aaron Van Allen, “it’s my third bike, but I really like this one.”

Steve Klehfoth has been working for Umbrella Roofing since February and said the bike giveaway was inspiring.

“I really like the overall vision of what we do at Umbrella, and giving back to the community,” he said. “It’s fun when we’re building the bikes to see how happy it makes all the guys on the crew, and then it’s a whole other level when you see the kids come out and put a helmet on their head and put them on a bike.

“We’re giving a lot of these kids something they’ve never had before,” Klehfoth said.

That’s the mission of Wish for Wheels, “to change a kids life by the simple gift of a bike,” said Chris Webster, coordinator of the GSES event for the nonprofit.

This year alone, the organization has given out close to 5,000 bikes, he said.

“Most people, at least from my generation, remember getting that first bike,” Webster said. “But a lot of kids these days, especially the low-income kids, don’t have that memory.

“And by targeting the younger kids, we hope to not only give them that memory, but instill a healthier lifestyle and maybe take some pressure off their parents because they become more mobile,” he said.

The new bikes come at a good time for the GSES students, who are learning new ways to get to and from school during the Grand Avenue bridge closure and detour, Pollender said.

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