Importance of Going Places

Just over a week ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Katie Blomquist, Founder and Executive Director, of Going Places a local Charleston nonprofit focused on providing low income, high poverty kids with the most basic childhood right, joy.

Katie Blomquist

On Today, "Giving Tuesday", I hope you will consider this great organization when you think about donating to great causes. If you are interested, checkout their current campaign.

We pride ourselves on calling Charleston home to our ventures, but must not forget that we need to help out and look for ways to ensure our city stays great.

Checkout what Going Places is doing in their Founder's own words below:

It all started the day after Labor Day, 2016, I was in my fifth year of teaching and third year in first grade at a low income, high poverty school in North Charleston and I was sitting on the couch in my pajamas watching "Friends" when I decided to create a GoFundMe campaign, which I called, "Every Kid Deserves a Bike." My initial goal was $65,000 to get every single child in my school a new bike, lock, and helmet. I was inspired to do this by a little boy from my class, Jawan, who was very unmotivated. I realized he had never really been given a reason to be motivated; he never went anywhere or really did anything. He was being raised by his grandmother, who is very sweet, but much of her time is taken up by her own ailments or caring for her dying mother. I decided that Jawan and I needed to bond outside of school so I could show him all of the cool things that are out there in the world; things he can do once he has an education.

I started taking him out after school and on weekends to see plays, museums, real restaurants where you have to look someone in the eye to order and then wait for your food, to the beach, to the Guitar Center so he could play real instruments, to Monster Jam Truck Rally, to his first hockey game, etc. On his birthday we went to an indoor jump park, to dinner, and then ended at Walmart, where I let him pick out some birthday gifts. This is when he asked me for a bike. It shocked me that he didn't have nor had he ever had a bike. Being a teacher, I could not afford to buy him one, but it got me thinking about how many other kids in my class and school didn't have a bike either. It was something that I couldn't get off my mind, and it really bothered me knowing so many kids were growing up without the memory of joy that owning a bike brings.

As a society, we all have these accumulated memories of specific childhood joys, like riding a bike,that I feel we take for granted and we assume everyone has. I didn't want to leave anyone out so I decided to get all 650 students in my school a brand new, high quality bike. That's when I started the GoFundMe campaign and soon Affordabike, a local Charleston bike shop, jumped on board and together we custom named and chose the bike's colors.

For many children who attend schools in low income, high poverty areas, when they go home from school is when the real stress begins for them. Unfortunately, many live in less than desirable home situations and being children, they can't even temporarily remove themselves from it. A bike provides these children with a sense of freedom, escape, and a way to decompress. Many of these kids don't have anything (especially new) that is truly theirs, some, not even their own bed, and so a bike also gives them a sense of ownership. In addition, a bike provides them with a piece of childhood and innocence that very often has been taken from them. But at the end of the day, a bike is just pure, basic, untainted childhood joy.

There are already so many wonderful organizations in existence that provide services to children with things that they need like food and clothing, etc, but there are not many programs out there that provide low income, high poverty children with things that they deserve simply because they are kids.

Little did I know how fast this campaign would take off. It went viral almost immediately, and almost every news station in the nation wrote stories on it, including The Steve Harvey Show, which flew me to Chicago to be a guest on the show. Steve donated a generous $20,000! TjMaxx selected me to be highlighted in a week long Twitter campaign which focused on inspirational women in society who are doing something for others, and this attention also raised $2,000 for the campaign. The NBC New York Nightly News with Lester Holt even flew to Charleston to cover the big bike reveal as well as The ABC World News! We have been mentioned in Time Magazine, Woman's World Magazine, Scholastic Teacher Magazine, The National Examiner Magazine, Weekly Magazine, The Post and Courier, Huffington Post, Yahoo Top News, USA Today, and online The Today Show, Inside Edition, and Good Morning America, to name a few.

At the end of the 2016-2017 school year, the tremendous success of the "Every Kid Deserves a Bike" campaign led me to create the 501(c)3 nonprofit, Going Places, so that I can further this work on a much larger level. I made the very difficult decision to leave teaching to work full time as the executive director of Going Places since it needs my full time attention and dedication in order to accomplish all that I envision for it. My heart is still very much with these students, and I know through Going Places, I will be able to positively reach hundreds of thousands of them.

Going Places

Our mission at Going Places is to provide low income, high poverty kids with the most basic childhood right; a right to joy. This also includes all of the teachers and staff who work in these schools. I include ALL staff: janitor, kitchen staff, front office, etc because often they earn minimum wages and deal with the same stresses all day as teachers and they are REALLY never thanked. In these schools, there aren't any funds in the PTO or PTA to celebrate these teachers and staff members, and having been an inner city teacher for six years, I know all too well the stress that comes from working in one. Yet each teacher chooses to work in these schools because often times, the teacher is the only consistent and loving person in these kids' lives. It's not so much about the academic part, it's the part that changes the child's life that keeps them there. Teacher salaries are a joke, more so in South Carolina than most states in the country, so treating themselves to anything that isn't a necessity is not usually in the budget for a teacher.

As Going Places continues to grow over the years, we will be implementing other programs that focus on proving other typical forms of childhood joy in more ways than just bikes, joys people have been growing up with for decades, like Halloween costumes, swimming lessons, and access to summer camp. We have big plans to expand nation wide, so keep your eyes peeled for us! "We're Going Places, Wanna Come?"

Our immediate goal is to get all thirty-three low income, high poverty schools in the Charleston County School District bikes, locks, and helmets within the next eight years. The next school that will be surprised with new bikes, locks, and helmets on May 1, 2018 will be all 300 kids at Mt. Zion Elementary School on Johns Island, SC! Not only do 85%-90% of the children who attend that school live at or below the poverty line, but they also live in a very rural area, so these kids literally have nothing to do. When they receive their bikes on May 1st, their childhoods will truly be transformed. Going Places needs to raise $40,000 to get all 300 kids bikes, locks, and helmets. 1 lock = $1, 1 helmet = $8, 1 bike = $100 We are again working with Affordabike, where we will custom make and design these one-of-a-kind, limited edition 2018 bikes! They will be called "The Purpose," because the steps that led me to creating Going Places were no accident, it all happened for a reason; it happened "on purpose." I also feel that spreading joy to underprivileged kids is my "purpose" in life, so naming the bike "The Purpose" seemed very fitting and meaningful to me.

Going Places is also teaming up with another local Charleston nonprofit, I Got Legs, to create the program, Going Places' Got Legs, to provide every wheelchair bound child, four to eighteen years old, within the Charleston County School District, with a wheelchair hand bike. More on that to come...!

To follow us, see the cool work we have done, see the awesome stuff coming up, or to make a tax-deductible donation, find us at:

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