Here’s the deal at Payne Elementary School in Wichita: Get perfect attendance, get a bike.
Every year on the last day of school, kids who haven’t missed a single day get a new set of wheels, a gift from the employees of Globe Engineering, who have sponsored the school for more than two decades.
The kids file into the gymnasium, sit on the floor and watch teachers hand out awards for things like Most Improved Reader and Happiest Learner. They listen to the librarian, who reminds them to keep reading over the summer. They hear from the school counselor, who tells them, “Nobody’s perfect, but just try your best and things will work out.” They smile when the fifth-grade teacher says she’ll miss this class so much and doesn’t want them to leave for middle school.
Then it’s finally time for the bikes. The grand prizes. This year there were 14, lined up along one wall of the gym – little bikes with training wheels for the preschoolers, big bikes with knobby tires and hand brakes for the bigger kids.
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Fourth-grader Annie LaForge earned a bike this year. But she didn’t get one.
“I already have a bike, and it’s in pretty good shape,” she told principal Donna Simpson a few weeks ago. “Could I give my bike to my little brother, Tom? His birthday’s in June, and I want him to have a nice present.”
No one has ever asked that before, Simpson said. Kids who own bicycles still prefer new ones. Students who get perfect attendance two years in a row gleefully accept their prizes, happy to have shiny new bikes. Many hand their old bikes down to little brothers or sisters.
But not Annie. She wanted her brother, Tom, a first-grader at Payne, to have a new bike for his birthday, Simpson said.
“It’s just the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen,” the principal said. “She knew she was going to have perfect attendance. She knew she was going to get a bike, but she sought me out and made sure we got one for him instead.”
On Thursday, Annie walked up to accept her new bike and grinned when she saw it – a blue, 18-inch bike with training wheels and “Surge” written in in rock-and-roll letters along the seat and handlebar.
“Uh oh,” Simpson said. “Bring that bike up here for a minute. Does that look like it’s going to fit her?”
“No!” the students shouted.
“I’m a little concerned. Maybe we need to exchange it?” Simpson continued. “Or do you have different plans for that?”
Annie walked toward the microphone, still smiling.
“Um. I already have a bike and my little brother, Tom, he doesn’t have a bike,” she said. “I’m giving my bike, because he doesn’t have one. So this is his bike.”
Amid applause, 6-year-old Tom ran to the front of the gym and hugged his sister. Then he stepped up to his new bike, his eyes wide.
Annie, for her generosity, got a surprise from Globe Engineering as well: a $100 gift card to Walmart.
“Because you were so generous, and you were thinking of your brother and not yourself,” Simpson said. “It just goes to show us that kids are awesome and they can do some fabulous things.”
Mark Graf, a supervisor at Globe who helps coordinate the annual bike giveaway, said he can’t remember a child turning down their bike or giving it to someone else.
“I think it’s awesome, and she needs to be rewarded,” Graf said. “She’s doing something good, and she needs to know other people recognize that.”
After the ceremony, Annie and Tom gathered with their father, Tim, and sisters, Alexandra and Arabella. Tim LaForge said Annie told him about a month ago that she planned to give her perfect-attendance bike to her brother.
“She’s such a sweetheart, but for her to step up to the plate like this – she talked to the principal and orchestrated the whole thing,” he said, shaking his head. “So yeah, I’m pretty proud.”
Annie said Thursday’s surprise was a great way to end the school year.
“I loved seeing my brother’s face when he got his bike,” she said.