South Carolina first-grade teacher, Katie Blomquist launched a GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to buy each student in her school a new bike and a helmet. The kind-hearted teacher never expected people to donate so much money.
Students jumped for joy as the school revealed that each student would receive a brand new custom made bicycles with a helmet. She asked them to consider this a late Christmas present from Pepperhill Elementary School.
“It’s a very late Christmas gift, early summer gift now,” Blomquist said. “This is a chance for them to truly own something of value. It’s a sense of therapy… It’s exercise. It’s a way of getting to school… But the number-one thing is its joy… Every single child deserves that.”
According to ABC News, Blomquist started the GoFundMe campaign after Labor Day weekend. She initially hoped to raise $65,000 but ended up raising just over $80,000.
Katie said the idea came to her after listening to a student talk about a bike that he really wanted, but his family couldn’t afford it. She thought why just buy this student a bike, why not aim to get the whole school their own bicycles.
“I had no idea what I was getting into 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 South Carolina elementary teacher raised $80,000 in less than three months. She said that more than 1,000 people donated to her cause.
“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,” Blomquist said. “It’s just amazing!”
Katie teamed up with a local bike shop called Affordabike who worked with her for seven long months, designing the perfect bike and design for her 650 students. They received helmets and locks for their custom made bicycles. Also, the school will get new bike racks for the students.
Blomquist said that she had waited for months to see the excited look on the children’s faces when they saw their new bikes.
“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. “It was that moment I’ve been waiting for seven months.“
Katie, 34, teaches first grade in an area that many of the students live in poverty. Last year, a student told her that he really wanted a bike for his birthday but his parents just could afford it. Truthfully, she couldn’t afford to give him one, either. That’s when she came up with the idea to start a fundraiser to get all the kids in her school their very own bike.
“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 said. “That was such a large piece of my childhood memories, and I immediately thought, ‘oh, they’re not getting that!'”
Katie included every student in her fundraiser and she didn’t care if they already had a bike. “I don’t want to leave anybody out,” she said.
At first, her plan was to give the bikes to the students just before Christmas but the bikes weren’t ready. Radio Flyer donated 100 big wheel tricycles to the preschool students. The project took four months longer than planned.
“I just knew it would happen for her because she’s one of those spunky people who gets things done,” school principal Tanya Underwood explained. “She’s bubbly, energetic. Loves her students. She’s an out-of-the-box thinker. She’s full of life and energy and she shares that with her kids every day.”
Katie Blomquist campaign not only gave the students new bikes, but it won the GoFundMe contest and a $10,000 donation for the school. They intend to use the funds toward professional training courses for the teachers.
Beyond the children’s happiness and excitement for their new bikes, Katie recalls the parents giving her hugs as they told her how much this gift means to them.
“I just thought this would be a nice thing to do. Then things started rolling. It was first local, and then it became this country-wide thing,” Blomquist stated. “All these people who don’t know our kids, who don’t know our school, gave their hard earned money. It was actual people’s dollars.It’s about bringing happiness and joy to people who deserve it. All children deserve that.”
[Featured Image by Shutterstock/Vladimir Salman]