A regular, if not avid, bicycle rider, Three Trails Elementary teacher Stacy Huffington has helped many Independence students learn the bicycle basics through education programs with the non-profit group BikeWalkKC.
Since the pandemic shuttered regular learning methods, Huffington has continued to pass on that enthusiasm with direct deliveries. Through Wednesday, she had delivered 76 donated bikes to ISD students and their families, and there’s a couple dozen more still to drop off.
“It gives you a little freedom from your home, especially now,” Huffington said. “I can’t imagine not having one.”
Huffington said BikeWalkKC has a “BLAST” program that teaches children how to ride and basic safety measures and also does an “Earn-a-Bike” program.
“I was floored at first how many kids don’t know how to ride, so I decided we need to bring the program in every year,” Huffington said. “We were in the BLAST program when we got the pandemic.” she said,
By then, she said, a couple students not yet in “Earn-a-Bike” inquired about getting a bicycle.
“Once they couldn’t come back to school, I just asked on Facebook in my world of friends, about donating a bike,” Huffington said. From there, she said, it sort of snowballed, and she decided to try getting a bike for all her elementary students that didn’t have one.
“I started with the fifth graders, and now I’m working on the kindergartners and first graders,” she said. “I just put it out on Facebook with friends and sent an email to my staff, and it’s grown from there. A lady contacted and her family and State Farm office donated 15 bikes – 14 of them brand news. They wanted to help. I’ve been all over the metro picking up bikes.”
And around part of the city delivering them, a truckload at a time. Wednesday she delivered 14 on nine separate stops, she said.
“I think the most I’ve had is 18, but that was pushing it,” she said.
She has about 40 donated bicycles in her garage, and perhaps the biggest task is finding bikes to match the youngest students. If possible and needed, she provides training wheels with the bike.
“My list is never-ending,” she said. “I have about 25 on my list, it could take a while.”
Huffington said she realized early in her deliveries that while she isn’t in a medical field, she could still definitively aid people during the pandemic, and now her fellow teachers are a bit jealous that she still – from appropriate social distances – gets to see some students.
“It hit me and I thought to myself, ‘This is my way; this is my way to help others,’” she said. “For my students to have the bike and to have that outlet to be able to ride a bike is amazing. It gives you some independence even if you still are in your own neighborhood. My most favorite was I had two students immediately jump on the bikes and start riding them around the neighborhood.”
“A lot of things are out of our control, and that’s hard, even more so for kids, so to give them something that is theirs and help them is just amazing.”