GREENSBORO, N.C. — Third-graders at Clara J. Peck Elementary are squirming in their seats. All 28 students are packed closely together inside the school's auditorium, hanging on the words of a bespeckled man in a navy blazer. Bob Krumroy is about to announce the final winner of this year's Bikes for Kids Essay Contest.
Off to the side, three friends, Elizabeth, Brianna and Camila can barely watch. The first two bikes they had hoped to walk away with were won by two students from another class. Fast friends since preschool, the trio wants to win the bike for a special reason.
"If I win the contest, I'd give [the bicycle] to Brianna," said Camila.
"Well if I win, I'm giving it to you and Elizabeth!" Brianna replied.
"We can share it," she said.
Camila has a bicycle. Elizabeth and Brianna do not. Brianna said she doesn't even know how to ride.
"I really want it," Brianna sighs.
To win the contest, Peck Elementary third-graders were tasked with submitting essays detailing what they wanted to do when they grew up. The best papers, as judged by Bob Krumroy, a nationally recognized speaker and founder of Bikes for Kids, would receive the prize.
Krumroy started Bikes for Kids in California. The foundation began as a way to give kids in difficult economic situations presents for Christmas. With the help of local donors and sponsors, Krumroy and Guilford County Schools brought the program to the Triad last year. According to the Bikes for Kids' foundation, students who received the bikes in San Diego increased college attendance from 3 percent to more than 12 percent in less than a decade.
In their essays, Brianna says she wants to be a teacher. Same for Camila.
"I want to be a doctor or a dancer, I can't decide," Elizabeth wrote.
All those hopes and dreams are in the future, for now. In the present, the three only want one thing: last shiny, neon-green bicycle sitting tantalizingly close to their front-row seats.
"And the winner is," Krumroy pauses.
The name is announced. The three hang their heads. A boy in blue bounces to the stage. After a moment, Camila turns to her left.
"You know what, it's okay," she said, "I'm happy for him."
A mature response from a nine-year-old. Elizabeth looks unconsoled. Her eyes can't hold back the disappointment.
After photos, Krumroy marches back to the front of the room.
"Alright, we have a little problem," he said, "I think we have one bike left."
Hope washes over the crowd. A 'One more bike!' chant erupts, the 25 remaining students clapping and stomping their feet in jubilation. After a brief huddle with GCS administrators and Peck Elementary staff, Krumroy turns and hushes the crowd.
"Unfortunately, I have some good news and bad news," he announced, "The bad news: we don't have one more bike."
Heads return to hands to the distraught tune of audible 'awwws.'
"The good news," Krumroy continues, raising his voice, "What would you think if we gave everybody bikes?!"
All a part of the plan. Kids flood the stage. Brianna and Camila hug. Elizabeth cries.
The girls' teacher, Jonisse Ratly, takes it all in from the side of the room.
"This is something they'll never forget. People have big hearts," she said, "It taught them how to celebrate each other's success. It's important they got to experience this kindness."
"That was awesome," Brianna said.
She turns to Camila, seated on the bike next to her, laughing.
"Can you teach me how to ride this thing?"
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