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2,400 Bikes Built As Christmas Presents For Needy Children

1,000 volunteers from 16 South Bay companies will bring smiles and much-needed wheels to needy children.

The 'Big Bike Build' takes place Saturday, Dec. 7 at the San Jose Convention Center. Courtesy Turning Wheels for Kids
The 'Big Bike Build' takes place Saturday, Dec. 7 at the San Jose Convention Center. Courtesy Turning Wheels for Kids
—By Bay City News Service

About 1,000 volunteers from 16 South Bay companies will join teams given just five hours to build 2,400 bicycles for needy children at the San Jose Convention Center on Saturday, an organizer said.

The event, known as the Big Bike Build and in its ninth year, is intended to provide bicycles to about 30 local charities as gifts that parents give to their kids for Christmas, Turning Wheels for Kids director Sue Runsvold said.

The non-profit Turning Wheels used money from donations to buy up boxes of 2,400 disassembled Raleigh Diamondback and Dynacraft brand bicycles for volunteers to put together between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Runsvold said.

"We paid $300,000 for the bikes so this is a truly a huge community event," Runsvold said. "The social workers tell us that it's (bicycles) the number one requested gift."

The volunteer builders are to meet in a large blue tent beside the convention center's South Hall, at 439 Market St. in downtown San Jose, remove the pedals, seats, flat-tired wheels and other parts from the boxes and build the bikes with tools, Runsvold said.

The bikes range from 12-inch and 16-inch spoked wheels, with training wheels and coaster brakes, to 20- and 24-inch BMX-style bikes and 26-inch mountain bikes with gearshifts, Runsvold said.

"Some teams will crack out 10 bikes, some will crack out 20 bikes" during the five-hours, Runsvold said. "The engineers will take longer because they want them to be perfect."

Some members of the teams compete with each other for the most outlandish Christmas-related headgear as they walk in and people erupt into applause when they hear a bike tire inner tube explode when someone inevitably pumps in too much air, Runsvold said.

One of the firms volunteering, San Jose-based Cisco Systems Inc., which is returning from last year, is sending 200 employees and paying each $10 an hour to build the bikes, according to Runsvold.

By noon Saturday, there will be "a sea of bikes" lined up in the rear of the South Hall, Runsvold said.

"It makes me cry," she said. "I look, and wow, look at what we accomplished. It's just awesome."

Volunteers from the 30 charities assigned bikes then arrive and take the bikes away for distribution later to the parents of needy kids so that the children see the bikes come from their parents for Christmas, Runsvold said.

There were 5,000 requests from families via the charities this year from the bike building events in San Jose and one planned in Richmond in the East Bay, but Turning Wheels only had enough donor funds to afford 3,000, Runsvold said. "We hope to meet the 5,000 next year," she said.

During Saturday's event in San Jose, 15 other volunteers will take part in an adult tricycle race with San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo pitted against members of the San Jose and Milpitas fire departments and Sharky the San Jose Sharks hockey team mascot, among others, Runsvold said.

In addition to Cisco, other South Bay area companies sending volunteer groups to build bikes in San Jose include Kaiser Permanente, San Jose Water Co., eBay Inc., Seagate Technology, New Belgium Brewing Co., DPR Construction, Intero Real Estate Services, SC Builders, Mission City Construction Inc., EMD Serono Inc., ECG Management Consultants, SanDisk, Fox Racing Shox, Therma Corp., and Hensel Phelps Construction Co.

Copyright © 2013 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.

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Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz December 07, 2013 at 05:44 PM
A Great gesture! 🚲
Marilyn Leonard December 08, 2013 at 05:21 PM
My late husband was an engineer, so Runsvold's comment made me laugh - so true! Kudos to all! There will be lots of happy kids!

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