'I just thought it would be a nice thing to do': teacher buys bikes for entire school

Staff at Pepperhill Elementary School in North Charleston, South Carolina, help with the big reveal.
Staff at Pepperhill Elementary School in North Charleston, South Carolina, help with the big reveal. 

You know those teachers you remember forever as someone who went above and beyond their job, to help shape the person you've become?

There's a good chance US Grade 1 teacher Katie Blomquist will be one of those teachers.

Students at Pepperhill Elementary School in South Carolina squealed and hugged each other when their teachers revealed a great surprise recently - they were all being given a brand new bike.

Students try out their new wheels
Students try out their new wheels Photo: Charleston County School District/Facebook

"I made a really conscious effort to watch their faces and let it soak in and imprint in my brain when those tarps went up," Katie told TODAY. "It was that moment I've been waiting for seven months."

Katie came up with the idea last year, when a child in her class told her he wanted a bike for his birthday, but he knew his parents couldn't afford to buy him one. Katie knew a lot of kids at Pepperhill Elementary School were living in poverty and she decided she wanted to do something to help.

"I started thinking about all the other kids who might not have bikes. We take a lot for granted and we forget that there's a large category of kids out there who don't have bikes," said Katie.

"That was such a large piece of my childhood memories, and I immediately thought, 'Oh they're not getting that!'"

At first, Katie just thought about raising money to buy that one little boy a bike, but then she realised how many others were in the same situation. Eventually, she decided to aim to raise enough money to buy a bike for each child, even if they already had one.

"I don't want to leave anybody out," she said.

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Katie started a GoFundMe page last September called "Every Kid Deserves a Bike!", with a goal of $65,000 – enough money to buy a bike and helmet for each child at her school.

By December she had raised over $82,000.

Katie wanted to give the children their bikes for Christmas, but she wasn't prepared for just how enormous the task of coordinating the bikes was going to be.

"This was an entire second job for me, when I got home from work until midnight every night," she said.

A local business donated 100 tricycles and training bikes for the pre-school students, and another chipped in with locks, bells and customised stickers naming each bike "The Future" and adding a sticker that says, "Let's go places!".

Proud school principal Tanya Underwood said she always knew Katie would make the project work.

"I just knew it would happen for her because she's one of those spunky people who gets things done," she said. "She's bubbly, energetic. Loves her students. She's an out-of-the-box thinker. She's full of life and energy and she shares that with her kids every day."

Not only was Katie's campaign a huge success, she also won a GoFundMe competition, that awarded Pepperhill a $10,000 prize, which will be used for professional training for its teachers.

Even though she was determined to succeed, Katie said she was unprepared for just how much support the school would receive.

"I just thought this would be a nice thing to do. Then things started rolling. It was first local, and then it became this country-wide thing," she said. "All these people who don't know our kids, who don't know our school, gave their hard-earned money. It was actual people's dollars."

Katie intends to continue to help children to create wonderful memories with her new fundraiser Going Places. Going Places will provide bikes and "other forms of joy", such as swimming lessons, summer camps and Halloween costumes, to children who need them.

"It's about bringing happiness and joy to people who deserve it," she said. "All children deserve that."