Going Places Founder Katie Blomquist:
“It’s not about the bike, it’s about what the bike represents. It’s freedom and escape from an unpredictable home life. It’s something of value to own when a lot of kids don’t even have a bed of their own. They have nothing of value so it’s a sense of restored innocence.”
We first profiled this former schoolteacher in 2018, just a year after she started her organization. Since then, Blomquist and Going Places have earned numerous awards, accolades and donations from corporate partners.
“We’ve done two schools every year up until last year when we did four schools,” says Blomquist. “Last year, we gave over 1200 bikes! That’s more than double what we’ve ever done in one year, so, when I say we’re growing quickly, I’m not kidding.”
Blomquist got the idea for Going Places after Jawan, one of her students, told her he wanted a bike for his 7th birthday. She couldn’t afford to buy him one on her salary, so she came up with a plan to get Jawan and 650 students in her low-income elementary school their very own bike.
“I did a GoFundMe because I thought, ‘How could I leave anybody out?’” says Blomquist. “Ninety-five percent of these kids live at, or below, the poverty line.”
Her GoFundMe went viral; she was featured on local and national television, and raised over $80,000 in just three months! It was a simple idea—that memory of getting your first bike—that everyone related to, and her ability to deliver on a mass scale that has helped the nonprofit sustain and succeed. To this day, she still cries every time she reveals new bikes to needy kids.
“I work so hard all year for the (reveal). I know it’s going to change their life, so it’s just an incredibly overwhelming moment,” says Blomquist. “I know what went into this, and it’s all the pressure and stress that I’ve been through, and it’s like, finally we are here, and we did it. That never gets old.”
Now, Going Places is, well, going places. Blomquist is expanding to her first school outside South Carolina.
On February 12th, she’ll be giving away 830 bikes (plus locks, helmets, and bike pumps) to students at Hartford Sylvia Encinas Elementary in Chandler, Arizona, thanks to funding provided by the DeeAnn Flores Schertz Foundation.
Don’t miss my chat with Katie to learn more about her upcoming event; her advice on starting your own nonprofit; and tips on how to be successful on social media.
Says Blomquist, “The number one thing is you want to surround yourself with people who are experts in things you’re not an expert in!”
To follow Katie Blomquist and Going Places:
Photos provided by Going Places