Waubonsie students assemble 'Bikes for Tykes'
Waubonsie Valley High School had a good problem for its annual month of service: Too many students wanted to be involved.
Plans to create a new room for a child with a life-threatening illness through the nonprofit Special Spaces didn't require all of their efforts.
So the school decided to "do something bigger," as Assistant Principal Jason Schmidtgall put it. "We wanted to do something greater outside these walls," he said Friday during an assembly. "We are about doing things for other people."
The school's efforts took on two forms, a bicycle giveaway called Bikes for Tykes and a donation to a muscular dystrophy research nonprofit group called Rally for Ryan.
Bikes for Tykes took some connections to come together.
Kelly Knox of Naperville, who volunteers as Illinois director for Special Spaces, wanted to harness volunteer help even though creating a new room for one child wasn't a big enough project. So she thought outside the house.
"I knew a lot of kids who get rooms don't have bikes," Knox said.
So she reached out to Pacific Cycle and got the company to donate 23 bikes and helmets. The bikes came with much assembly required, so that's where the high school students came in.
The robotics club, music honor society, girls soccer team and several classes took time after school to follow directions -- or not -- and put together bicycles for children receiving treatment at Central DuPage Hospital.
"It was really fun" to put together a bike, said varsity soccer player Kennedy Metzger, a freshman who said she and her teammates disregarded any instructions but still made the pieces fit. "We just went for it," she said.
Students wheeled out each bike to its new owner along with a poster decorated with the child's name.
Five-year-old Jayson Jordan of Aurora, who recently was hospitalized for asthma and pneumonia, got a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bike just in time for summer, his aunt Zandra Bowen said.
Makayla Nemcik, 8, of Hanover Park, got her first bike that wasn't a hand-me-down from her older sister. The cycle's black and green body even matched her green-painted nails and the sea-green cap covering her head.
Makayla needs chemotherapy once a month for four more months to treat a brain tumor, her father Michael Nemcik said, so a new bike is a nice distraction.
"I'm excited for her," he said.
The last child to receive some Waubonsie generosity didn't get a bike, but a check for $5,025 for the foundation his family started in 2009 to fund research for muscular dystrophy, which progressively weakens muscles.
Ryan Karlin of Naperville, a seventh-grader at Still Middle School, hasn't lost as much strength as many his age with muscular dystrophy, his parents said.
"Ryan is continuing to walk and he's going to walk in here as a freshman in two years," his mother Geri Karlin said.
To receive such a donation to Rally for Ryan before Ryan even attends Waubonsie is a great surprise in the year the family's nonprofit expects to hit the $1 million mark.
"We're in shock that they did that, let alone how much it was," Ryan's father, Marty Karlin, said about Waubonsie's donation, which came from fundraisers organized by the art club, badminton team, band, choir, orchestra, class of 2018, Spanish honor society and others.
Students said they felt good to be able to help, and that's exactly the aim of the monthlong charity drive, Knox said.
"Whether it's Special Spaces or Bikes for Tykes," Knox said, "I hope they learned what it feels like to give back."