The first graders at North Bend Elementary/Middle School in West Baltimore couldn’t help fidgeting as they sat in a line in the school’s parking lot Wednesday morning. And for good reason.
Across from them stood a fleet of 52 new red bicycles and helmets — one for each of them — a surprise donation from the Can’d Aid Foundation, the charity arm of Canarchy, a national craft brewing collective that includes Oskar Blues, Cigar City, Deep Ellum and others.
“You guys are up for a really special treat,” Principal Patricia Burrell told the 6- and 7-year-olds.
“Who do you think is getting these bikes?” Alyssa Lile, the foundation’s outreach coordinator, asked them.
Several raised their hands hopefully.
“That’s right,” she said. “Everyone is going home with a bike today!”
A collective squeal of joy erupted, followed by chaos as each child received their new bike and helmet.
The bikes were among more than 2,000 that Can’d Aid has donated to elementary school students in the past five years through its “Towns, Tunes, Treads + Trails” charitable program. Canarchy put aside $1 per sale for two months this summer to pay for the bicycles.
Baltimore beer distributor Legends Limited sells beers from Canarchy brands in the central Maryland region.
North Bend was the first Maryland school to be selected for a bike giveaway, Lile said. Previous donations have gone to students in Colorado, Missouri, Texas, Utah and elsewhere. The foundation also donates musical instruments to students and canned water to communities struck by disaster.
“Promoting healthy, active lifestyles is important for everyone,” Lile said. “It’s extra important for underserved communities, where kids might not have an opportunity to get a new bike.”
The bikes were put together by volunteers in a “bike build” event Tuesday night at World of Beer in South Baltimore’s McHenry Row.
“Community members were fired up to be giving back,” Lile said.
Some of the students got onto their bikes and took off right away, pedaling around the parking lot, supervised by teachers, volunteers and a handful of parents. Others hadn’t ridden a bicycle, or a “big-kid bike” without training wheels, and needed help with the kickstand and a steadying hand to stay upright.
Rachael Evans watched as her son Donray McFarlane, 7, was called up and fitted with a helmet.
“Now he feels like a big kid with this bike,” she said, holding the handlebars for him. “He can ride to school.”
Payton Johnson, 6, pedaled slowly as her father, Octavious Johnson, steered her around.
“You like it?” he asked after she dismounted.
“Yeah,” she responded, her eyes still on her new bike.
“I like the color,” he said.
“Me too!” she replied.
Bryan Greene Jr. had been pushed around a little on his cousins’ bicycles, but never had one of his own.
The 6-year-old wore a red sweatshirt with an Iron Spider design, from the recent Marvel “Avengers” movies, and red and blue Vans shoes. Now he had a red bike — and a helmet with flames on it — to match.
“It’s a nice gesture,” said his father, Bryan Greene. “I’m excited for the kids.”
Burrell, the principal, was proud to host the bike donation at North Bend and hoped it would be a permanent positive memory the children would carry with them from first grade.
After all, she said, “every child remembers their first bike.”