Children build bikes in Chesapeake

Published 7:41 pm Saturday, May 6, 2017

Hundreds of children will have brand-new bikes to ride this summer thanks to the Golden State Foods Foundation.

The organization held its fifth annual Build Your Bike initiative for Hampton Roads at Chesapeake Square Mall on Saturday. The program provides school-aged children in need with their own bicycles, and in many cases their first bikes ever.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Virginia brought 250 children from across Hampton Roads to build their own bikes with the help of mentors. Every child received a helmet, bicycle lock and safety training with their new bikes.

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“This is going to be one of the largest build-a-bikes that we’ve done, and one of the largest in the company this year,” said Jerry Wilson, facility manager of Quality Custom Distribution Services on Progress Road in Suffolk.

More than half of the bikes on Saturday were donated by the foundation. The rest were donated by the 24 local event sponsors, including Chick-fil-A. The restaurant provided food and beverages for children and volunteers.

Sean Hess, owner and operator of the Portsmouth Boulevard Chick-fil-A, has supported the program since its first year when there were only 100 bikes.

“We’ve been stepping our way up every year,” Hess said.

Wilson said the event would not have been possible without the coordination of the GSF Foundation Suffolk chapter, including Suffolk chapter secretary Chelsey Sari and treasurer Natasha Baird. Sari said the Boys & Girls Clubs did an excellent job of selecting children in need that were new to the program.

“The Boys and Girls Clubs found the necessary children to get to 250, based on the foundation’s criteria,” She said.

Eleven-year-old Norfolk resident Charles McClain built his first bike at the event with the help of Pinecrest Baptist Church volunteer Bubba Diggs.

“It was awesome,” Charles said.

He said he was excited to see how far he could ride his new bike around the mall.

“If I really wanted to, I could ride it around this place 20 or 30 times,” he said.

Many other kids came out to help the younger ones build their bikes. Jason Gardner of sponsor Penske Truck Leasing brought his 13- and-10-year-old daughters, Madeline and Leonie.

“I thought it was a good opportunity to get involved in the community,” Jason said.

Madeline said she enjoyed helping a younger kid build a bike.

“It was so fun,” she said. “We met Kanye, the boy we worked with building the bike. He was so nice and it was so fun to get to know him.”

More than 200 volunteers were at the mall on Saturday to help these kids build their own bikes. But for Paul Garrison, co-owner of sponsor Innovate Architecture and Interiors, there should be even more next year.

“We need more volunteers out here,” Garrison said. “We’re trying to make it bigger and better every year and help more kids. It’s like Christmas in May.”