The Chargers spread some holiday cheer in the form of brand-new bicycles Tuesday afternoon.
The Chargers Impact Fund partnered with Bikes for Kids Foundation and Pechanga Resort Casino to surprise about 150 second and third-graders at Mayo Elementary School in Compton. The students received a new bike, helmet and bike lock.
"It's one of our favorite events," said Adriana Cox, the Special Advisor for the Los Angeles Chargers Impact Fund. "We've been doing it for 18 years and it just brings so much joy to the community.
"As the Los Angeles Chargers Impact Fund, we help families and communities thrive," Cox added. "We want to foster a sense of belonging and to welcome everyone in the community as part of the Bolt family."
Students were brought into an assembly where they were surprised by the entrance of multiple Chargers players including outside linebacker Khalil Mack, defensive lineman Morgan Fox and wide receiver DeAndre Carter.
Chargers players were introduced by Bikes for Kids Foundation CEO Bill Pollakov, and then read a "winning" essay written by a student that talked about their dream and what they wanted to be when they grew up.
At the end, Pollakov surprised the children with the news that everyone would be getting a bike, not just the winners — much to the excitement of the children in attendance.
"To be able to surprise them all with a bike at the end was awesome," Fox said after the event. "It was super cool to see how excited everyone got. When we got through the initial bikes and everyone thought we were out, being able to drop the news that we had a bunch of them was cool to see the reaction."
Chargers kicker Cameron Dicker added: "It was pretty cool. One of the teachers said it was about to bring her to tears, and I felt the same way. I saw a kid come up and he was like, 'I'm going to give the bike to my little brother.' It just melts my heart."
Pollakov, who founded the Bikes For Kids Foundation 20 years ago, believes that giving away a bike to a child can help change their life — something he knows because it happened to him.
"For me, when I take a look at these bikes, I'm not looking at a bike, I'm looking at a child," Pollakov said. "I'm looking at an opportunity for that child for them to change what they do and what situation they're in and to some of them, it can make a really big difference."
Chargers defensive lineman Otito Ogbonnia was also one of the members of the team on hand. He noted that showing the kids that their dreams are possible was another important factor of the day.
"For me, just seeing the kid's enjoyment, you never really know how much presents can mean to a little kid, especially at this age when they're developing," Ogbonnia said. "They're excited to see any type of caliber of adult like this.
"I think it's important to show kids that we were all there at one point, and we were all little kids, and your dreams and aspirations can come true," Ogbonnia added.
Earlier this week, the Bolts continued an 18-year tradition of surprising local elementary school students with brand new bikes for the holidays! Chargers OLB Khalil Mack, DL Morgan Fox, WR DeAndre Carter, K Cameron Dicker, DL Otito Ogbonnia, LB Derek Tuszka, and LB Tyreek Maddox-Williams joined the Bikes for Kids Foundation and Pechanga Resort & Casino at Mayo Elementary school where they were greeted by over 150 deserving second and third graders. The bikes were built by Bolts Community Crew – powered by Pacific Premier Bank – volunteers the Saturday prior, and kept hidden from the students until the players revealed the news.
Mayo Elementary Principal Fleming Robinson said the impact on students from Tuesday's event will last longer than just one day.
"It means so much," Robinson said. "Especially in the context of the question that they ask them of what they wanted to be, so it was really good.
"This says that they're connected with the rest of the world. That the people they see on television are interested in them and in their future," Robinson later added. "It really meant a lot to them and I know it meant a lot to our school."
Sean Vasquez, the Vice President of Pechanga Development Corporation, echoed Robinson's sentiment.
"It was so impactful," Vasquez said. "To see the kids and to hear when they all got bikes, unbelievable. Life-changing, in fact.
"To see the impact that it has on them, I'm so happy," Vasquez later added.
The message of the school and the event is something that Cox hopes the children spread past the day — kindness.
"I hope that the children today that experience this event can go into their school, community and fellow students and bring joy and happiness and just spread kindness," Cox said. "That is such a huge mission for the Los Angeles Chargers Impact Fund and the Chargers organization and the players — work hard, be kind and spread happiness."
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