About 100 students at in Spring Valley got an early Christmas gift when at an assembly on Wednesday morning, they each were surprised with a brand-new bicycle.
As part of their year-long "Bee a Buddy, Not a Bully" campaign each of the third-graders at the school had written essays about what that statement means to them. They were told that the writer of the winning essay in each of the three classes would win a bike. DeKock played the setup perfectly, telling the students that all of the essays were excellent, but that only one child per class could win. The students all applauded and were genuinely happy when the winners' essays were read and their names announced.
The winning essays belonged to Jevan, from Mrs. Ek's class; Dennise, from Mr. Aceves's class; and Mahkayla, from Mrs. Kroeger's class.
At that point, DeKock introduced Bill and Debbie Pollakov, founders of Bikes for Kids, the local non-profit organization that donates bicycles to children who might not otherwise ever receive one. They reached out to Bancroft and offered to donate the bicycles for the students.
At that point, the ruse was on. Bill talked to the kids, and thanked them for being able to be there to give away the three bikes to the winning students. He added that they might have one more bike to give away, and Debbie rolled out another from behind the curtain, which was given to another essay winner. A second additional bike was then given away in the same fashion.
As Bill continued to address the kids, Debbie slowly led the kids in a chant of "One more bike. One more bike."
Bill then huddled with the three 3rd grade teachers to decide if they should give away one more bike.
"We've talked about, and we decided we're not going to give out one more bike," he said. "We're gonna give you all bikes!"
At that point, the auditorium curtain was opened to reveal a shiny new present for each of the kids, and they errupted in joyous shouts and exclamations.
Lois DeKock, principal at the school kept the bike giveaway a secret to their teachers, as well as the students – each of them each choking back tears at the wonderful surprise.
"We had no idea," said Manuel Aceves, one of the teachers. "We've been working on nonfiction writing, with a topic sentence, reporting on details, etc. All the kids worked really, really hard on their essays, so for only one person to win [the bike] was going to be hard. But we also were learning about being a gracious winner and a gracious loser. This is just really special."
DeKock said a group of about 35 volunteers from Common Ground worked dilgently on Tuesday night to help assemble the bikes so that they'd be ready for the assembly.
"So many people worked together to make this happen," said DeKock. "Our custodian, our maintenence and transportation department, our volunteers from Common Ground, some of the staff members that were clued in to what was happening. It's really been a team effort, and that was part of the fun."
Debbie Pollakov said that in addition to getting the bike, which will be fun to play with, the goal is for the kids to receive so much more.
"We don't look at the bikes as just a fun way to let your hair blow in the wind. It gives them a sense of ownership and pride of ownership and responsibilty," she said. "For a lot of kids it's their very first bike, and it's a huge thing. It takes them into their community at large and they get to feel good about and what that bicycle represents for them."
The Pollakovs started Bikes for Kids 10 years ago, "from a garage in Poway," Bill said. This year, they will give away 1,450 bikes across San Diego County, more than 26,000 since the charity began.
"This was even greater than I expected," said DeKock. "I expected the kids to be excited, but being able to see the looks on the teachers' faces, and their tears, it was just joyful."
(Editor's Note: Children's last names were withheld at the request of Principal DeKock.)