GSF’s bikes bring kids joy

Published 10:42 pm Saturday, May 17, 2014

During a build-a-bike event at Chesapeake Square on Saturday, Jennifer Berow and Jason Greer help Desarae Branch with some final touches on assembling her new bike. Employees at Golden State Foods’ Suffolk location contributed to the GSF Foundation’s effort to fund 125 bikes.

During a build-a-bike event at Chesapeake Square on Saturday, Jennifer Berow and Jason Greer help Desarae Branch with some final touches on assembling her new bike. Employees at Golden State Foods’ Suffolk location contributed to the GSF Foundation’s effort to fund 125 bikes.

Workers at Golden State Foods’ Suffolk location brought joy to children’s lives when a build-a-bike event was held in the Chesapeake Square parking lot Saturday.

The Chesapeake unit of the Boys and Girls Club of Southeast Virginia selected 125 children to receive bikes provided by the Golden State Foods Foundation.

Locally, the majority of the foundation’s support comes from the Suffolk employees, said Danny Register, transportation manager and foundation chairman.

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“We do small fundraisers from time to time, but 90 percent of funds come from employees’ paychecks,” he said, adding that about nine in 10 employees at the Suffolk site participate.

Simultaneously with the Suffolk-Chesapeake event, build-a-bike events took place at 25 other locations around America, with over 1,000 BMX bikes assembled in total.

Children received bikes, along with a bit of mentorship, according to Register. Volunteers helping the kids assemble their new rides were from Golden State Foods, the Portsmouth Boulevard Chick-Fil-A, Penske Truck Rental, ColonialWebb and Believers Church.

“It’s a combination of groups that we partnered together with for other things,” Register said, citing various other foundation activities through the year, including providing children with shoes, back-to-school backpacks and warm coats.

The bike program, according to Register, is about much more than merely providing a child with something he or she didn’t have before.

Through the assembly process, it teaches them to listen, follow instructions and use basic tools, he said. And owning a new bike, he said, teaches them responsibility.

“It’s not only the conversation they can have, but also showing the child how to use tools and how to follow instructions,” Register said. “The kids see something in parts, and then it becomes a whole. And it’s something they can use.”

It also brings new ways of having fun and connecting with peers. “They can take bike rides in groups with their friends — things of that nature,” Register said.

Saturday’s build-a-bike had three steps. After building their bikes and chatting with their volunteers in the process, recipients then took their new wheels to a safety-check station to ensure correct assembly. Then the Chesapeake Police Department led safety lessons for the final stage.

Jason Grant, a program leader with the Boys and Girls Club, said member children who didn’t have bikes or had outgrown their bikes were selected for the event.

“Every kid loves to ride a bike,” he said. “I know I did when I was younger. This is a great opportunity for kids who might not have the money to get a new bike.”