Spring Valley’s Rancho Elementary third grade essays receive special gift from Bikes for Kids

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The question is simple but moving for anyone to answer, “If you could help someone, what would you do?” And that was the topic chosen by Rancho Elementary School officials for third-grade students participating in an essay contest that promised to award a bicycle and helmet to the prize-winning author.

The question is simple but moving for anyone to answer, “If you could help someone, what would you do?” And that was the topic chosen by Rancho Elementary School officials for third-grade students participating in an essay contest that promised to award a bicycle and helmet to the prize-winning author.

Bikes for Kids sponsored the friendly, inspiring competition, a charitable organization in operation for 12 years delivering bicycles along with safe-riding helmets to deserving children. Dana Wright, principal at Rancho Elementary, visited from medical leave for shoulder surgery to read the first-place essay on Dec. 17, at an all-third-graders assembly. “Mr. Bill” Pollakov, head of Bikes for Kids, led events at the meeting. Pollakov said the high school students in the back belonged to the Westview Bikes for Kids Club.

“Who wrote that?” Wright asked after reading the first contest entry. Waving his hand and claiming top place as best essayist was Joseph, who wrote that he had helped his mother with cancer so she could stay with their family and live to see him grow up. Pollakov asked whether the other students were happy for their classmate Joseph, and they smiled and applauded. Joseph came to center stage for congratulations then to inspect his newly won blue bicycle.

Next, Pollakov continued leadingly, “But Principal Wright said she had good essays. I am going to ask if maybe there is another bicycle and helmet we can give for the next good essay.”

After a nod from the Westview high school supporters, second-place was given to Naomi, who said she would help her grandma by making a memory book, because her grandmother is losing the ability to recognize family members and recall special events in their lives together.

Happiness and suspense built, though, as Pollakov asked twice more about more bikes, with Hazel taking third place for writing of her wish to help people in the Philippines suffering from natural disasters, and then Jose being awarded fourth prize for his essay about wanting to offer aid to homeless people. Four prizewinners, four bicycles with safety helmets given.

Then, Pollakov inquired of Wright whether there were other good essays, and she nodded back. He said he needed a huddle with the Westview club members about what could be done. The bicycle donors broke from their circle, with Pollakov, declaring, “The essays were all so good, there are bikes for everyone here in third grade!”

The astonished youngsters cheered and waved, as their surprised teachers gasped. Only Rancho office staffers had known beforehand about the plan. And that made 71 bikes for every third-grader on the Rancho Elementary campus.

 “These essays were the finest we’ve ever had. We know we hit the right school, and this is what keeps us going as an organization. We cannot say enough good things about this school and this principal. And we appreciate the high school students who raised money for this project. They are really very special,” said Pollakov.

Tyler Crespo, president of the Westview High School Bikes for Kids Club for two years said he likes bicycling himself and got involved because he has known Pollakov since he was 3 years old. Crespo also volunteers with food pantries that serve military and low-income families and with the Make A Wish Foundation. He is seeking an internship with the UCSD, medical care facilities, with the Moores Cancer Center. Crespo said he was touched by the winning essay because of his increasing interest in community service assistance to cancer patients and their families.

Crespo further praised his club vice president, Cameron Brown, who has served alongside him for the past two years. According to Crespo, his second in service attended every fundraiser the club staged and has suggested effective events to bring in money for support of the charitable efforts.

The night before the Rancho Elementary School surprise mass bike giveaway, 32 volunteers showed up to build the bikes for the event. Dana Wright reminded her students that they should always wear helmets when bicycling, to protect their heads and protect their brains, and that this is a matter of obeying the law. She told the children their parents would have to pick up the bikes to take home. Wright ended with instructions apt for a “peace builder” school, “Make sure there is no bragging and no teasing when you tell other students here about today. I want you to be humble recipients of this gift who are grateful for what you have been given. Be good citizens of this school.”

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