By LYNETTE HAALAND
Four Points News
When the new school year began in Uvalde, hundreds of 3rd – 6th graders have a new bike thanks to the efforts of a Four Points area nonprofit and many local volunteers.
Bikes for Kids Uvalde Supporting Robb Elementary Operation Get Out, a 501c3, gifted 800 new bicycles to Robb and Flores Elementary students.
“So many people want to wrap their arms around the Uvalde community, and the feeling that bikes give us all are those of freedom, peace, release and connection,” said Cindy Present, longtime local resident who spearheaded the initiative. She is also the executive director of Operation Get Out, which she co-founded with her husband Steve.
“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.
The new school year is heavy with emotion in the South Texas community where a mass shooting in May took the lives of 19 students and two teachers.
The children of Robb Elementary joined Flores Elementary creating an enrollment of 800 students. Operation Get Out hosted a Bikes for Kids giveaway, providing a bicycle for each child involved in the shootings at Robb and the children they are joining at Flores.
Over $250,000 was raised over the summer to purchase 800 GT Bicycles for children of Uvalde.
Over 150 volunteers assisted with the event, including Austinite Lance Armstrong, UISD Superintendent Hal Harrell, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin, UISD Parent Teacher Organization, the Uvalde community, and individuals from throughout Texas, with over two dozen from outside of Texas.
“Volunteers were from throughout Texas and over a few dozen from out of state, including members of the Steiner Ranch Youth Mountain Biking club who were involved throughout building the bikes, loading and then giving away,” Present shared.
Dawn Bosland, team director of Steiner Ranch Mountain Bike Team, said that Present jumped into action after the tragic school shooting on May 24.
“As a wellness expert and co-founder of Operation Get Out, she is well versed on the positive impact that being outdoors has on people’s emotional and mental well-being,” Bosland said. “The simple act of being able to jump on a bike and ride around when emotions and stresses are high could help these children begin to heal.”
Present added that riding a bike is much more than good physical fitness.
“Our mission by bringing these bikes into the Uvalde community is that bikes become a way for these kids to ‘get out’ and be in nature,” Present said.
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, she added.
“A bike can become a wellness tool that the children and families can utilize when tensions are high or feelings are low,” Present said.
During the Bikes for Kids Uvalde initiative, numerous volunteers would show up to Ski Dock to help unpack, build and stack the 800 bikes over a course of a few weeks.
On August 24, H-E-B donated the use of four tractor trailers to transport the bikes to Uvalde. Then on Saturday, August 27, a huge volunteer team
came together to pass out bikes to the children.
“(Families) were met by a volunteer escort to select the color of bike they preferred, a helmet, bike tube and lock, safety information and a stuffed animal,” Bosland said.
The smiles on these precious faces made all the difference to every volunteer,” Bosland added.
Funds for the bikes came from all over, including the Four Points area, throughout Texas and from around the world, Present shared.
In addition to Operation Get Out, the event came together with the WeDu Team, led by Lance Armstrong, JB Hager, George Hincapie, along with the assistance and partnership of Mellow Johnny’s, San Antonio Sports Foundation, Wish For Wheels, H-E-B, GT Bicycles, Sram, and Winter Garden Produce. Present’s husband Steve is also co-owner of Ski Dock, which was also an important part of the initiative.
Armstrong along with the Presents have been involved with Bikes For Kids in the Austin area.
“Lance has always had a passion for providing bikes to children battling with illness and loss; this is another step in all of their legacies of the ability of a bike to help heal,” Present said.