A total of 160 bikes sat in a vacant lot behind the Muriel Forbes Elementary School gym on Wednesday, arranged by size under an arch formed by the booms of two bucket trucks. Inside the gym, students had gathered for what they thought was a bowling competition for a chance to win a bike.
Some parents on hand knew differently, having received word of a special holiday gift made to the Southeast San Antonio school: Each and every Forbes student was receiving a brand-new bicycle. The bikes came courtesy of Greenstone Electric Company, an electric utility contractor based in New Braunfels.
When Jamaal Hamilton, the physical education coach at Forbes, made the announcement that every student was getting a new bike, the gym erupted in screams and cheers. Kids clapped, jumped up and down, hugged their teachers and danced.
“These kids are good kids,” he said. “To see them excited to get an early Christmas gift, it’s not something small. It’s a big bike, it feels good.”
A social media post about Forbes’ bike rodeo in November caught the attention of Margo and Carl Williams, Greenstone Electric’s owners. Only three students participated in the event with local law enforcement and had to share a bike.
When she saw the photos, Margo Williams reached out to Hamilton, who is also a family friend.
“Every kid deserves a bike. It starts with that,” she said. “There’s 160 kids and only three can participate? That is not OK with me.”
The company collaborated with Hamilton, who provided the number of students per grade and organized a fun event to surprise them with the bikes.
Greenstone Electric purchased the bikes from Academy Sports + Outdoors and company employees assembled them on evenings and weekends, Williams said.
Williams wouldn’t say how much Greenstone spent to purchase the bikes. To her, the cost wasn’t the point.
“It didn’t matter, because at the end of the day, it’s just about giving back, it’s not about the price,” she said. “Some of these kids will never own a bike” because their families might not be able to afford one. In 2020, nearly 93% of Forbes’ students were considered low income.
Hamilton said he hopes the school will plan to organize another Bike Rodeo soon so that more students can participate.
“Some of the kids said, ‘Coach, I wish I could participate. I wish I had a bike to participate in,’” Hamilton said.
Williams said Greenstone Electric might make the bike giveaways a regular occurrence, seeking out other schools where there is need.
But for now, seeing the kids set eyes on their shiny new bikes was the payoff. By grade, the students walked outside the gym and toward the bikes as 15 Greenstone line workers greeted them.
Debra Carmona, a parent of three students at Forbes, attended the event to watch the students receive their bikes. She said her children already had bikes, but they were in poor condition.
“It’s amazing. We’re thankful for the company for giving all the kids bikes,” she said. “They [the kids] deserve it.”