Susan Runsvold describes Christmas 2003 as the worst of her life. She was visiting her grandchildren to celebrate but could “barely get into the living room because of all the presents.” Once they began opening them, her grandkids—like many families—only cared about opening the next gift. Having grown up in a low-income family, she was dismayed by the extravagance and decided to change things from then on.
Recalling her own childhood and how she used to worry she wouldn’t be able to get any presents at all, Runsvold realized that the best way to help her family adopt a new mindset would be to teach them about the value of giving. As a child, she remembered always wanting a bike but assuming it was out of reach, so she decided to help other children get bikes for Christmas.
In her first year, Runsvold raised $843 from friends and took her grandson to buy bicycles for children from low-income families. From there, interest grew as community members and storeowners flocked to donate. TurningWheels For Kids has donated more than 18,000 bikes through neighborhood bike-repair clinics, bike builds at pediatric centers, and the annual Big Bike Build, during which 1,000 volunteers build bicycles for the holidays and donate them to families through local nonprofit organizations.
"A bike opens a whole new world to" recipients, Runsvold said. One boy explained that his bike gave him a sense of self-reliance because it made getting to school easier. Others ride with their families as outdoor bonding time. Many youth continue with the program for years after they receive their bike, often helping build and repair bicycles at events. Runsvold sees this relationship as a way for people to be a part of a community where "one hand washes the other"—or hands out a helmet and a pair of wheels.
See how Groupon helps you discover local causes and lend a helping hand at the Groupon Grassroots blog.