Philanthropy has always been in my blood. While growing up and attending Campbell Hall kindergarten through 12th grade, I was first influenced by my mom, Ann Blomquist, who works in the Campbell Hall high school office. For years she volunteered at Operation School Bell, which provides underprivileged children with clothing, toiletries, and toys. As a child, I distinctly remember cleaning out my room and taking bags of clothes and toys I no longer used to Operation School Bell where I also helped organize all the donated items. Seeing firsthand how incredibly excited a child was to pick out a toy that I had donated has always affected me. At that moment, I was able to see a toy that once brought me so much joy bring someone else that same joy.
All through elementary school, I remember how involved the school was in giving to children at our Haitian sister school. Chaplain Richards made such an impact on me in the way he described how little those kids had, and he made sure we understood, at a young age, how lucky we were.
In high school, I was co-president of the Highlanders Club, a service organization whose mission was for students to give back to the community. I also served on the “teenage version” of a Board of Directors for Camp Harmony where I was a counselor each summer for underprivileged kids from inner-city schools. The camp was a way for children to escape from their normal day-to-day lives.
I am now living in Charleston, South Carolina. In my fifth year of teaching elementary school at a low income, high poverty school, I decided to create a GoFundMe campaign, which I called, “Every Kid Deserves a Bike.” My initial goal was $65,000, which would provide every single child in my school a new bike, lock, and helmet.
This project was inspired by a little boy from my class, Jawan, who was having a difficult time and needed some extra attention that his grandmother, who was raising him single-handedly, couldn’t always provide. We spent time at museums, sporting events, and performances. On his birthday we ended up at Walmart, where I let him pick out some gifts, and this is when he asked me for a bike. I could not afford to buy him one, but it got me thinking about how many other kids in my class and school didn’t have a bike either. It was something that I couldn't get off my mind, and it really bothered me knowing so many kids were probably growing up without the joy of owning a bike.
I didn’t want to leave anyone out, so I decided to set a goal of buying not only Jawan but all 650 students in my school a brand new bike. That’s when I started the GoFundMe campaign, and soon Affordabike, a local bike shop, jumped on board. Little did I know how fast this campaign would take off–it went viral almost immediately. Countless news stations across the nation reported on it, some shows had me as a guest, several organizations made generous donations, and one news program even visited for the big reveal of the first bike distribution at my South Carolina school.
At the end of the 2016-17 school year, the tremendous success of the “Every Kid Deserves a Bike” campaign led me to form the 501(c)3 nonprofit Going Places
so that I can further this work on a much broader level. I made the very difficult decision to leave teaching in order to work full time as the executive director of Going Places
since it needs my attention and dedication in order to accomplish all that I envision for it. My heart is still very much with these students, and I know through Going Places
that I will be able to positively reach hundreds of thousands of them.
Our immediate goal is to get all 33 low-income, high-poverty schools in the Charleston County School District bikes, locks, and helmets within the next eight years. The next school that will be surprised with new bikes, locks, and helmets on May 1, 2018, will be all 300 kids at Mt. Zion Elementary School on Johns Island, SC, where 85%-90% of the children live at or below the poverty line. Going Places needs to raise $40,000 to get all 300 kids bikes, locks, and helmets. 1 lock = $1, 1 helmet = $8, 1 bike = $100 Going Places
is also teaming up with another local Charleston nonprofit, I Got Legs
, to create the program, Going Places’ Got Legs
, to provide every wheelchair-bound child, four to 18 years old, within the Charleston County School District, with a wheelchair handbike. More on that to come!