Mindy Mueller clutched her hands together at her chest, her eyes closely tracking the wobbly progress of a neon-green-and-black bicycle slowly making its way across the blacktop outside of Sunrise Elementary School.
"Oh my god," she repeated over and over, barely able to keep still as, a few feet away, her 8-year-old son, Owen Fox worked to master control of the two wheels. "This is his first time riding a bike," she explained to the teacher helping Owen keep his balance and make steady progress.
Owen Fox was one of more than 100 students at Sunrise to receive a free bicycle on May 15 through Wish For Wheels, a nonprofit dedicated to providing brand-new bikes and helmets to children in low-income communities. Wish For Wheels partnered with the Audi Denver dealership for the Sunrise giveaway, which connected every second-grader at the school with a new bike and helmet.
For students like Fox, the gift of a new bike had life-changing potential. Mueller explained that the family had never been able to afford a bicycle, despite the fact that she once owned a bike shop when she lived La Veta. In between her exclamations of excitement and waves to her son, Mueller said the new bike had a transformational potential for her entire family.
"This is really a dream come true; we wouldn't have had this opportunity otherwise," she said. "I think this could even be a great incentive for Owen to do better in school … He's been so excited."
According to Sunrise Principal Chris Hardy, Mueller's enthusiasm was shared by the rest of the second-grade parents at the school, who joined their kids to pick from rows of 100 shiny new bikes assembled by representatives from Wish For Wheels.
"We have had a whole mess of parents come out to see their kids ride their new bikes," Hardy said. "They've been quite amazed."
That sense of wonder for kids and parents alike is an integral mission of Wish For Wheels, as is a sense of access and opportunity for recipients. Mary Anderson, a fourth-grade teacher at Sunrise, saw the nonprofit's mission as a perfect fit for the school and worked with Hardy and Assistant Principal Amy Cribbs to connect students with new bicycles.
In addition to the material value of the new bikes, Hardy said the project offered a valuable way to build ties between the school and the local business community. In this case, the staff at Audi Denver worked with Wish For Wheels to make dreams come true for students like Owen Fox and parents like Mindy Mueller.
"This shows that there are not only people out there in our community who care, but who are also willing to work to help our kids succeed," Hardy said.