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Teacher raises $80K to provide bikes for all 650 students at underprivileged school

Posted April 5

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Come summer, the 650 students at a South Carolina elementary school will be hitting the pavement with some brand new wheels — all thanks to one devoted teacher.

It’s a project more than a year in the making — one that was inspired by a conversation between teacher Katie Blomquist and one of her students at Pepperhill Elementary School, ABC News reports. The little boy had a simple request — a bicycle for his birthday.

But he, like many of the kids who attend the Title I school, couldn’t afford one.

“I started thinking about all the other kids who might not have bikes. We take a lot for granted and we forget that there’s a large category of kids out there who don’t have bikes,” Blomquist told Today. “That was such a large piece of my childhood memories, and I immediately thought, ‘oh, they’re not getting that!’”

So in September 2016, Blomquist launched a GoFundMe page with a single mission — raise enough money to buy each of the students at the school a new bike.

“I had no idea what I was getting into,” she told WCIV-TV. “And it became a thousand times more amazing than I ever dreamed. I didn’t really think about how much would go into it. I just thought, ‘Let me see if I can do this’ … I wanted to make family memories.”

The original fundraising goal was $65,000, and in just three months, nearly 1,000 friends and strangers from across the world had donated more than $80,000.

“It just took off,” Blomquist told ABC News. “When I say community, that started as just Charleston, then grew to our country as a community. One person from France and one person from Australia also donated … it’s just amazing!”

Once the money had been raised, Blomquist worked with a local bike shop — Affordabike — to custom-make 550 bikes for the kids, Today reported. Radio Flyer provided smaller tricycles and bikes for the preschool-aged children.

“This was an entire second job for me, when I got home from work until midnight every night,” Blomquist told Today.

But the work was well worth the sacrifice.

“This is a chance for them to truly own something of value,” Blomquist told ABC. “It’s a sense of therapy … it’s exercise. It’s a way of getting to school. But the No. 1 thing is, it’s joy. Every single child deserves that.”

The hours of hard work paid off last week when all the Pepperhill students were herded outside for the big reveal. The bikes hid under giant parachutes used in P.E. class, according to ABC News.

Surrounded by volunteers, police officers and members of the community who’d come to help assemble the bikes, Blomquist signaled for the removal of the parachutes. It was a moment she’ll never forget.

“I made a really conscious effort to watch their faces and let it soak in and imprint in my brain when those tarps went up,” she told Today.

Along with the bikes, Blomquist was able to secure helmets and locks for each child. In the midst of the joy, the teacher wanted to impress on the children the magnitude of the effort and the kindness of the people who made it possible.

“Think about the joy and happiness these strangers gave to you,” Blomquist told the students at the reveal, according to USA Today. “I hope that in turn one day, you find a way to give back happiness and joy to other people.”

Blomquist is looking to the future with her new nonprofit, Going Places. She’s launched a fundraising page for the charity, which aims to provide underprivileged children with bikes, lessons and experiences, according to the GoFundMe page.

“Going Places will work diligently to provide joy in a variety of forms to children in Title 1 schools because kids are kids, and all too often we forget that no matter the circumstance, we as a community need to better ensure they have memories of joy as well,” it reads.

Jessica Ivins is a content manager for KSL.com and contributor to the Motherhood Matters section.

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