When the third-graders of Thorman Elementary School in Tustin were asked to write essays on empathy, they were told that each of the top four submissions would win a free bicycle.
And they gathered under that premise Monday in the school’s multipurpose room, where four students were announced as the winners.
But then school officials unveiled a pretty big holiday surprise: First, they announced that a few additional bikes would be given away, and then they revealed that all 97 third-graders would leave with bikes — and matching helmets too.
The shiny red and blue two-wheelers came from Bikes for Kids, a San Diego-based nonprofit, and were paid for by Pacific Advisors, a financial management firm based in Newport Beach. They were secretly assembled over the weekend by a team of volunteers, and most of the fleet was stashed on the stage of the multipurpose room behind a red curtain.
Once the curtain was pulled back on Monday, cheers, screams, high-fives and hugs ensued. Some of the school’s teachers even cried.
“The teachers just broke into tears,” Principal Deanna Parks said. “Their passion for the kids just went from the inside to the outside in a second.”
These emotions were understandable. Parks told the OCDE Newsroom that many of the third-graders were receiving their very first bikes. In fact, she said, Thorman’s entire bike rack is typically empty on school days.