Bike Elf rewards good grades with new wheels
From bells to baskets, glitter to gears, there aren't many things more personal, more special to a child than their bike.
"My bike is pink and purple and it has stars and moons on the wheels and it's really big and really pretty," said Izabella Queen.
Until just last June, Izabella didn't have a pink and purple bike—she didn't have one at all. But she made a deal, worked hard, kept to her word and earned that bike with stars and moons on the wheels.
"I was really excited like on a scale of one to 100, it was 100," she said.
That deal she made was with Bike Elf. It's the same one they make to other kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Blount County, Wesley House in Lonsdale and other places.
"They actually step up to a poster and sign their name and we create a little contract," said Dewayne and Leigh Wilson.
If they make straight As all semester, they'll get their own bike.
"If you work for something, you get it. but you have to put in the work. And that if you don't reach the goal then you don't get the reward," the Wilsons added.
It started two years ago when the couple moved to East Tennessee from New Orleans. Close to Christmas that year they wanted to collect 100 bikes to give away for the holidays.
"Maybe I thought that we would fix up 100 bikes for Christmas, and that would be a really cool thing to do, and that would be the end of it," said Leigh.
That was just the beginning of it.
"We were driving all over East Tennessee to pick up bikes one at a time," added Dewayne.
They collected the bikes, but instead of waiting until Christmas, they partnered with the Boys and Girls Club to give the kids some incentive to read, write and ride.
"We want them not only to reach the goal and get the bike but we want them to understand the process," said the Wilsons.
Now, instead of driving to collect the bikes, they hold bike drives where people can drop them off. So far, they've gotten more than 500. Some without seats, need new chains, some new pedals. Volunteers help fix them up so they're ready to give to kids who make the grades.
"They call people up and they stand next to their bike and people get really excited when they get a bike," said Queen.
"If you do whatever the goal is and you reach that goal then you're going to get the prize and that's what life is all about," added the Wilsons.
Bike Elf is hosting a bike drive Saturday, Feb. 4 at the Boys and Girls Club in Blount County from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. They're accepting gently used bicycles.