Tears of sadness came to the eyes of Jesus Herrera when the 8-year-old thought he wasn’t lucky enough to get a free bike – his first — at Baker Elementary School.
But his spirits shifted into high gear Tuesday when he heard Bill Pollakov of Bikes for Kids Foundation shout: “Everybody gets a bike!”
Pollakov and his group — partnering with the San Diego Chargers (who foot the bill for the bikes) — pulled an Oprah Winfrey-style surprise on second- and third-graders who wrote essays in an attempt to be chosen for holiday wheels and helmets.
The top essays from six classes were announced, and the children had their picture taken with Pollakov, Principal Kathleen Gallagher and Chargers teammates.
Charger players read the essays of the early winners.
Children wiggled excitedly as they hoped to hear their name called. After the six, a woman shouted, “one more bike.” The children joined the chant.
Another bike was given away. And again the “one more bike” chant started anew.
Pollakov “huddled” with the Chargers to make the decision. That’s when he announced that all 150 children of the Mountain View school would go home with a bicycle and helmet.
A few Chargers said, “You get a bike. You get a bike” as the children squealed with excitement.
“I’m really excited,” Jesus said, after calming down from the excitement of his prize, which he hoped would be a red bike.
Bikes for Kids has been in the process of giving away 2,240 bikes to elementary school children in the county before Christmas.
Each year, Bikes for Kids chooses children from different schools.
All funds raised go to buying bikes and helmet, said co-founder Debbie Pollakov.
Since the Chargers began working with Bikes for Kids Foundation in 2005, more than 15,000 children have received new bikes from the team. Bikes for Kids is a nonprofit that raises funds to give hundreds of bikes to children attending inner-city schools in San Diego.
“I loved it. It was great,” said 6-foot-6, 300-pound tackle Brett Boykin. “Getting to see how happy all of the kids are and see them dancing, cheering with their friends over the bikes, it’s exciting to see their facial expressions.”
“We were all kids once,” he said, “and growing up, I always looked up to the football players. That’s what I wanted to do.
“And maybe there are a couple of kids here that are excited to meet me and my fellow teammates. It’s awesome.”
Other Chargers players who helped with the bike giveaway were Joey Bosa, King Dunlap, DJ Fluker, Hunter Henry, Tyrell Williams, Jake McGee, Asante Cleveland, Tenny Palepoi and Mike Lee.
Principal Gallagher has been promoting a “growth mind-set” at her school, which encourages students to believe they can learn and put out the effort to achieve their goals.
Pupils are to be persistent in their efforts and positive attitudes toward their learning, she said.
And the bike giveaway comes with a writing lesson. The pupils headed back to class to write thank-you notes to Bikes for Kids and the Chargers.