Every Kid Deserves a Bike
This National Teacher Day, GoFundMe thanks Katie Blomquist for being a hero to hundreds—and soon, thousands—of kids.
Eight years ago, Katie Blomquist had no idea what she wanted to do with her life. She was in her mid-20s and trying a variety of thankless marketing and PR jobs in Chicago, but nothing felt right.
“It was so unfulfilling—I felt like a monkey in the middle,” said Katie. “The days dragged on, and I thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life. I’d rather go to the doctor and get a shot every day than be here.’”
While searching for a better fit, Katie started nannying for a local family. It was a job that finally made her feel that she was making an impact. One day while the kids napped, she looked out on Lake Michigan, and it suddenly came to her: She should become a teacher.
Katie immediately enrolled in a summer education program and studied at night while the kids slept. With her master’s in elementary education in hand, she started student teaching for Chicago Public Schools. Then, CPS closed 80 schools—putting Katie out of the job.
That’s when Katie moved to Charleston, South Carolina, and found herself on a journey she never could have imagined.
With four years of teaching at Title I school Pepperhill Elementary under her belt, Katie had developed the knowing eye of all great teachers. She could tell when one of her students just wasn’t getting it. That was the case with Jawan. He was unmotivated and unengaged in the classroom.
Katie made it her mission to gain Jawan’s trust and help him rediscover the joy of learning. She took him to museums and shows, and when her parents came to town, they all went to the local guitar center to play instruments. Over time, Jawan opened up to Katie, and on his birthday last year, May 17th, he told her that all he wanted in the world was a bike.
Katie couldn’t get it off her mind. She had so many happy memories growing up and riding her bike, and it bothered her that Jawan and many of her students might never have the opportunity to experience that basic childhood right to joy and freedom.
When GoFundMe announced its back-to-school competition* in September, Katie knew this was her chance to help not just Jawan, but all the students at Pepperhill. She succeeded.
“Something just came over me, and I pushed and pushed and didn’t stop,” said Katie. “I would come home from school and email every radio station in South Carolina and message celebrities who care about teaching. I replied every time someone commented on or shared my campaign.
“I think people could tell that my excitement was truly genuine and wanted to be a part of it. I was shocked by the amount of people who donated.”
Thanks to her hard work and dedication, Katie’s campaign to give every Pepperhill student a bike won GoFundMe’s grand prize, a $10,000 donation to her school. Her enthusiasm attracted attention from the media as well, and in just over three months, the campaign raised $80,000—enough to give all 650 students a custom bike and helmet.
After months of fundraising, preparation, and patiently waiting for the bikes to ship, the day of the reveal finally arrived in March.
The kids were thrilled—several had mostly used hand-me-downs in their everyday life, making this bike one of their first personal possessions.
Inspired by the response to her campaign and the impact she was able to have on so many kids, Katie started a nonprofit called Going Places.
The goal is to spread joy to more children and also give back to Title I teachers, whose jobs are particularly stressful and often underpaid.
Going Places will start its work in the Charleston County School District and hopefully make its way across the state and nationwide: “My goal is to spread joy through more than just bikes,” said Katie.
“Kids deserve to go to camp, take swim lessons, own Halloween costumes, and experience what will become the shared memories that kids have had for decades. That’s my mission: to spread joy and happiness.”
*NEW: GoFundMe is giving $1,000 to 100 teacher campaigns for Teacher Appreciation Week! Just start a GoFundMe for an amazing teacher by May 18 and raise $500 to qualify. Click here to learn more.
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Special thanks to Katie Blomquist and all her Pepperhill kiddos.