The San Francisco 49ers hosted its annual Bike Build event with Turning Wheels for Kids presented by Optum on Monday, November 10, to help provide 80 foster youth with a bike to call their own. Not only will these bikes serve as a source of fun and recreational activity, but as a means of transportation for teens and young adults affiliated with Unity Care.
"Some of the foster youth receiving the bikes will learn to pedal for the first time," said Maggie Cuneo, community relations specialist for the San Francisco 49ers.
"Others have simply never owned a bike. The bikes will serve as something they can take ownership of, and something they can use not only recreationally, but as a means of transportation. Our ultimate goal is to give these youth something they can be proud of, call their own and take wherever their journey leads them in the future."
The two-part event began with the assembling of 80 bikes with the assistance of 49ers staff, players, including former foster youth, Joe Staley and his teammates Kenneth Acker, Antoine Bethea, Chris Borland, Carter Bykowski, Garrett Celek, Asante Cleveland, Perrish Cox, Craig Dahl, Dillon Farrell, Xavier Grimble L.J. McCray, Garrett Celek, Trey Millard, Kyle Nelson, Quinton Patton, Mike Purcell, Kaleb Ramsey, and Bubba Ventrone, along with volunteers from Optum, Optum Cycling and Turning Wheels for Kids.
Turning Wheels for Kids is a non-profit organization that distributes bikes year-round via various partnerships focused on preventing childhood obesity, supporting low-income families and aiding foster children. By providing bikes, TWFK seeks to improve children's health and well being.
"Turning Wheels for Kids, the 49ers and Optum are partnering to distribute 80 bikes to local foster kids through Unity Care," shared Robyn Bartkowski, Program Manager for Turning Wheels for Kids.
"We've been very fortunate over the last nine years to partner with the 49ers," said Bartkowski. "The team has been integral in making this day happen. Having us here on site and coming out with great spirits and big hearts to build the bikes for kids in need is really what makes this day so special."
Many of the players may have been novices when it comes to building bikes however that didn't stop them from tackling the task at hand.
"There haven't been many times where I've built a bike or have helped put one together," said Chris Borland. "Today, I was screwing the wheels in backwards at one time, and the pedals. Thank goodness we had quality control reps from TWFK and Optum to assist."
Some players, though, may have been more experienced than others.
"I actually built a bike last year for the first time," said Bubba Ventrone.
"The hardest part is assembling the brakes," said Ventrone,"The professionals have to do that. I'm pretty much the bolt-and-nuts tightener. It'd be pretty funny if my mom saw me actually holding a wrench, because I don't think I've ever done that in my life."
And, for some of the players, it was the personal connection to the cause that brought them out to assist. linebacker Patrick Willis was once a foster kid. "For me," said Willis as he checked the air pressure on the tires of the bikes, "A bike wasn't just a toy. It was transportation. As a foster kid, it was a lifeline. It is a blessing to be able to come out here to help today – to build bikes for kids who don't have one. It is also a lot of fun."
After the bikes were put together, they were delivered to 50 youth at the Optum Bike Safety and Health Fair at Levi's® Stadium, where kids participated in interactive, non-contact football drills, including a tackling pad and dummy drill, quarterback net drills and a bicycle obstacle course.
The 49ers Community Mondays program is presented by Dignity Health and includes weekly events involving players giving back to the community in the spirit of the 49ers Foundation's mission to keep kids, "Safe, On Track, and In School."