Governor unveils gift to Pershing, encourages bike education

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen wore a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon as he rode a bicycle in Pershing Elementary School’s gym.
Five kindergarten students who were gliding on bikes next to him had the same happy expressions on their faces.
Pillen visited the school Nov. 8 to highlight the donation of 24 bikes to Pershing’s physical education program. The nonprofit Strider Education Foundation presented them to students as part of its All Kids Bike initiative. The foundation of Omaha-based engineering company HDR Inc. funded the Pershing gift through a donation to All Kids Bike.
Pillen said he was energized by taking part in the bicycle presentation. He said there was nothing better than seeing the eyes of a child light up when receiving a gift. He felt it was critical to give them that type of confidence early in their lives.
“What’s really important for Nebraskans to focus on is our kids,” Pillen said. “Kids are our future in Nebraska.”

Dana Wendelin has taught physical education at Pershing for the past 21 years. He said students would begin their bicycling adventures Nov. 13. The Strider bikes are designed to ride smoothly on gym floors, which allows schools to hold lessons on a year-round basis.
“I’m excited to get these kids going and watch them learn,” Wendelin said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Matt Avey, a health and physical education curriculum specialist at LPS, said he was intrigued when he read an article several years ago about Washington, D.C.’s public education system. DC Public Schools wanted every student to learn how to ride a bike by the end of second grade. Avey felt a similar initiative could happen in Lincoln as well.
LPS used previous grants from All Kids Bike to purchase bicycles for Fredstrom, Randolph and Rousseau elementary schools. Avey said the goal is to eventually have enough bikes to store at 10-12 LPS buildings. They could then be shared among all 41 elementary schools throughout the year.
“If every kid learns how to ride a bike by first grade, that would be huge,” Avey said.

Lauren Tadlock, public relations manager for All Kids Bike, said before the presentation that the bicycle initiative was making a difference for students. The HDR Foundation donation will cover the entire $6,000 cost of the program at Pershing. All kindergarten students will learn how to ride bikes through an eight-lesson unit in physical education classes.
“It’s amazing to see the smiles on the kids’ faces,” Tadlock said. “It’s just the most amazing thing to see how they respond to this in every school. It really takes you back to the feeling when you first started riding a bike.”
All Kids Bike was launched in 2018 with the goal of giving every child in the United States the chance to learn how to ride bicycles. It provides schools with Strider bikes, which initially come without pedals to help students learn how to properly balance on them.
Each donation also includes pedal-conversion kits, fully-adjustable helmets, a 20-inch instructional bike for teachers, equipment storage racks and a complete curriculum. Tadlock said the bikes at Pershing will last at least seven to ten years.
Students learn basic concepts such as striding, leaning and maneuvering through turns during the first five lessons of the program. Pedals and kickstands are attached to each bike for the final part of the unit. Students learn how to pedal and pilot their bikes during the last three lessons.
Pershing’s bicycles are part of a $150,000 donation from HDR Foundation. The organization provided money in December 2022 for 25 schools in ten states. The foundation added a $360,000 gift to All Kids Bike in September 2023. That grant will fund the learn-to-ride program at 40 schools in 16 states.
Pershing students erupted in cheers when Pillen and representatives from HDR and All Kids Bike unveiled the bicycles behind purple and yellow gym mats. Wendelin first showed all students how to put on a helmet and get on a bike. Pillen and five students then joined him as they rode in a circle on one side of Pershing’s gym.
Wendelin said he wanted to ensure that Pershing students would wear smiles while riding their bikes for many decades to come.
“It’s a lifelong skill that they’ll do forever,” Wendelin said. “We want to teach them skills that they’re going to use in their futures.”
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Published: November 8, 2023, Updated: November 8, 2023

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen smiles with Pershing Elementary School students on Nov. 8. Pillen helped present 24 new bikes to kindergarten students. All Pershing kindergarten students will learn to ride a bike in their physical education classes. HDR Foundation provided a donation to the All Kids Bike initiative to pay for bikes, helmets and curriculum materials.