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placeholder  September 7, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 15   •   Oakland, CA

Sixth-graders at St. Elizabeth Elementary got quite the surprise when Girl Scout Christina Adams presented each one a brand-new bicycle.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

Girl Scout brings bikes, safety, smiles to sixth-graders

In what has to be the best second day of school ever, sixth-graders at St. Elizabeth Elementary School walked into the gym to find 50 brand-new bicycles — sleek turquoise, purple and black mountain bikes — lined up along the length of the basketball court.

Smiles, screams and a few tears ensued.

"Even at the smallest surprise, they're grateful," observed Sister Paula Toner, RSCJ, the school's vice principal. "They're not entitled."

At the end of the gym stood 50 bags — the kind that buyers of Girl Scout cookies would recognize in a heartbeat — but inside, this time, were safety manuals and helmets.

The benefactor behind all this was a humble but confident teenager named Christina Adams, who is well on her way to receiving the Gold Award, the highest honor the Girl Scouts can bestow on a member.

Christina, who is beginning her junior year at San Ramon Valley High School, is a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc Parish in San Ramon, where she invited her fellow parishioners to contribute to her goal of providing a bicycle to each sixth-grader at the school.

She was still adding up the costs of the bicycles, helmets and locks, but it was in excess of $6,000.

St. Elizabeth's principal, Mary Pult, is a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc.

The bicycle giveaway was a year in the making, culminating in Christina's dad driving the biggest rental truck they could find from San Ramon to Oakland's Fruitvale District, and hoping he wouldn't get a ticket for being parked too long on busy 34th Avenue.

Three officers from the Oakland Police Department's Traffic Division were present to help the new young riders with safety information and encouragement.

For some of the sixth-graders, it was their first time on a bike. For almost all, it was their first time on a shiny new bike they could call their own.

But before the bikes were distributed to their excited new owners, Girl Scout Christina had each pick up one of those tote bags. Helmets were the first order of the day. She was careful to explain how to fit them properly and moved among the students, who were seated in the bleachers, to check. Then she led them through the safety manual.

"You always need to wear your helmet," Christina said as students helped each other adjust the helmets.

Christina began as a casual rider, her father, Harold Adams, said, confining her rides to their court, for the most part. When her older brother joined the mountain bike team at San Ramon Valley High, Christina went along to watch. At some point, her father recalled, Christina told him, "Since you're dragging me to all these meets, take me on a mountain bike trail."

After a loop near the base of Mount Diablo, her father was rewarded with, "I love it."

Today Christina is a member of the mountain bike team, and finished third in her age group at the State meet.

When Christina began to formulate her ambitious plan to supply bicycles to every sixth-grader at the Oakland elementary school, she received encouragement from her parents.

"I thought it was a great idea," said Harold Adams, who stood ready with tools to adjust bicycles to fit their new owners. "I didn't expect it to become this big. It kept growing."

"I'm not surprised," said Suzanne Adams, her mother. "She loves biking and she loves doing this," she said, watching as her daughter was helping children choose the right-size bicycle from the many offerings.

"I used to have a bike, but the tires popped," said Xiomara Rodriguez, 10, as she selected her new bike.

Her classmate Yamna Cordova, 10, was pleased to own her second bicycle. The first had broken, she said.

As the bicycles were selected, the students walked them on to the school yard, where they began practicing riding.

Christina said she decided to pursue the bike project because she enjoys riding, and wanted others, too, to share in the fun.

"I really wanted to share my passion for riding bikes with younger people," she said.

She was concerned about helping the youngsters riding safely, and got a big boost from the Oakland officers, who helped the pupils get off to a good start. "It's really about safety," Sgt. Darrell Kelley said. "Make sure you wear your helmet. Don't think cars can see you," he said.

"My old bike was dead," said Luciana Peña, 10, who was all smiles as she practiced riding on the schoolyard. "I'm so happy I got a new one. I was about to cry."

Her classmate, Mariana Lopez, 11, called it "the best day ever."

 
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