Be the Change – Bikes & Bright Futures: Ted Blankenheim

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President John F. Kennedy once said, “Nothing compares to the simple pleasure of riding a bike.” Redding’s Ted Blankenheim agrees. A retired paramedic, registered nurse and firefighter, Ted believes that bikes give children freedom — especially foster children.

Thirteen years ago, he founded Bikes for Kids, which last December provided more than 250 brand-new bicycles to foster children in Shasta County. Ted had been inspired by a toy drive that was happening at the downtown Redding Starbucks on Eureka Way. “I saw a man wheel in a bike to donate, and I thought, ‘that’s it!’ That’s when Bikes for Kids was born.”

Left to Right: Casey Ripley from Starbucks, Jessie Cork and Bristol Nash from Youth & Family Programs, Ted Blankenheim, and young Jaxsyn Tyson. All enjoy community activism and sharing their enthusiasm for children receiving holiday bikes.

Left to Right: Casey Ripley from Starbucks, Jessie Cork and Bristol Nash from Youth & Family Programs, Ted Blankenheim, and young Jaxsyn Tyson. All enjoy community activism and sharing their enthusiasm for children receiving holiday bikes.

“I feel really, really blessed that I’m able to do this,” Ted says. “I have a great team of support that sit with me at a ‘round table’ to plan all the way through helping assemble many bicycles that get delivered in boxes.”

Ted is very grateful to all the first responders that have contributed time, money and bicycles to the cause. The paramedics, nurses, police and fire personnel have been very supportive, Ted says. He also wishes to thank every individual donor and generous group that have demonstrated their commitment to Bikes for Kids again this year, including Redding hospitals. There is also a group donating suitcases for foster kids who are relocated a lot and may only have a plastic bag to carry their things in.

The annual drive begins each November; new bikes can be dropped off at the Starbucks at 1400 Eureka Way in Redding during business hours. On Christmas Eve morning, the bikes will be disbursed to agencies, foster parents and social workers, who will present them to the children later.

“Every one of the bikes collected go to the kids,” Ted emphasizes, “100 percent of any monetary donations are used to buy more bicycles and helmets.” Ted also mentions that people from many other states have opened their hearts and some have even shipped donations to Bikes for Kids.

art-1116-btc3A Redding resident most of his life, Ted retired in 2012 after 37 years in what he calls “the helping professions.”  Ted is constantly inspired by the people he used to work with – the nurses, doctors, police officers and firefighters who get up every day to help others. “They get a certain amount of recognition,” Ted says. “But they see a lot of tough stuff and damage to society.” He admires them for getting up to go to work every day motivated by more than just to make a living.

Raised in a large family, Ted says that even though they didn’t have a lot of wealth, his parents passed down many important values – some of which you don’t see much of nowadays. “I came from a caring family that taught me to be self-critical and show empathy toward others,” says Ted.

Ted is most proud of his sister Vivian. “She has been very influential in my life. She helped me learn to read, developed my interest in books and gave me a sort of cultural upbringing that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I guess you could say she’s my hero.”

In January, when the bicycle drive is over, Ted typically rests for a few weeks then goes on a trip. His favorite pastime is traveling and learning about other cultures. He especially enjoys visiting third world countries, where he says the goodness in people can really be seen. The most amazing place he’s ever visited was Angkor Wat, a temple complex in Cambodia that is one of the largest religious monuments ever constructed. He says it is truly an awe-inspiring place, more impressive to him than the Egyptian pyramids.

Ted says he aims to live life well and do the best he can with what he’s been given. He hopes to expand his Bikes for Kids program and would be willing to help others do something similar in their communites. To those who are considering jumping into volunteerism, Ted says, “it’s important to find your niche. Find something you love, then start helping.”

To learn more about Bikes for Kids, call or text Ted Blankenheim at (530) 917-5806. Check out the Bikes for Kids page on Facebook where kids as far away as the Philippines have connected to Ted: http://www.facebook.com/TedBlankenheim.BikesforKids77

The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature community members from the North State who are actively making a difference in community life. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to pn@northstateparent.com.

Skye Kinkade
About Skye Kinkade

Skye Kinkade is a fourth generation Siskiyou County resident and mother of four lively children. She enjoys being part of a close-knit community that is so generous and kind in difficult times.

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