In the wake of the unthinkable, one nonprofit and multiple local advocates and bike companies helped the Texas community rally around a classic pillar of childhood: riding bikes.
Saturday, Aug. 27, set the stage for a far brighter scene in Uvalde, Texas, than the tragedy that struck the rural town 3 months prior.
In a community-wide display of solidarity in response to the school shooting that shattered many in the town, nonprofit Operation Get Out organized a bike giveaway for every child affected by the May 24 incident.
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The Bikes For Kids giveaway provided each third-to-sixth grade former Robb Elementary student a bike as the fall semester begins. The event occurred as the children joined nearby Flores Elementary in the wake of Robb’s permanent closure. And Operation Get Out didn’t stop there; along with giving every Robb student a GT BMX bike, it also provided a bicycle each to every existing Flores student.
The giveaway totaled 800 bikes and a robust catalog of other items like helmets, locks, tubes, safety information, and even hundreds of stuffed animals.
More Than Just Exercise
For Operation Get Out, giving the kids bikes meant more than simply providing them with a way to exercise or get around town.
“Bikes can be an amazing tool for children to ‘Get Out,’ get active, and get connected for positive mental and emotional wellness impact. So many people want to wrap their arms around the Uvalde community, and the feelings that bikes give us all are those of freedom, peace, release, and connection,” said Cindy Present, a wellness expert affiliated with the nonprofit.
Over 150 volunteers helped put on the event, including Lance Armstrong, Uvalde CISD Superintendent Hal Harrell, Mayor Don McLaughlin, and individuals from throughout Texas and beyond. Core Austin bike shop Mellow Johnny’s also pitched in, as did SRAM, GT Bikes, and more.
Present spoke to the bikes’ potential healing effect on families in the community as they continue to cope with loss and grief.
“Scientifically, we know that being in nature and outdoors helps reduce stress, decrease cortisol, heart rate, and blood pressure. It also increases the ‘happy hormones,’ including dopamine, serotonin, and adrenaline. So scientifically, when used intentionally, a bike can become a wellness tool that the children and families can utilize when tensions are high, or feelings are low,” she said.
Proof Positive: ‘Smiles of Joy’
According to Operation Get Out, the event produced immediate results. The organization said it received “dozens” of emails and texts that describe kids and parents riding around town in groups.
Even better? More stories indicate the event has helped initiate the healing process for some riders. Volunteers have relayed stories from parents saying their child hadn’t spoken up about the shooting since it occurred back in May but that “picking up the bike was the first time they vocalized.”
In what might be the ultimate proof of concept, the nonprofit described the moment one victim’s surviving family of four got on their bikes together and broke out into “smiles of excitement and joy.”
“Returning to school will not be an easy transition, but new bikes, helmets, locks, and the ability to get out for a positive wellness impact will be something to help these children and the Uvalde community continue to move forward and heal,” Present said.
GearJunkie would like to send its heartfelt encouragement to the community of Uvalde as it recovers from the events of May 24 — now, at least in part, in the saddle.