Katie Blomquist’s Nonprofit, Going Places, Ensures Kids Living Below the Poverty Line Can Go the Distance

UPDATED: December 4, 2023
PUBLISHED: November 30, 2023
Katie Blomquist founder of the Going Places nonprofit helping a young girl learn to ride a bike

Going Places is one of five nonprofit organizations SUCCESS magazine is spotlighting during the week of Giving Tuesday. Early in November, we posted on our social media accounts asking followers to nominate a charity they felt was making an impact in their communities. We tallied up the nominations and are pleased to highlight the hard work these organizations are doing behind the scenes to better the lives of others.

A viral start for Katie Blomquist

In the fall of 2016, when Katie Blomquist worked as a first-grade teacher at a Title I school in South Carolina, a boy in her class asked her for a bike for his birthday. She wanted to help him out, and after asking around the community, she realized that most kids in her school didn’t own a bike. Her own happy childhood memories of riding a bike made her want to help her students, so she created a GoFundMe page. By the end of the year, she raised enough funds for all 650 kids in that school to each receive a bike.

Blomquist’s story went viral, and she raised more than $80,000 in three months. That led her to start a nonprofit, Going Places, the following year in March. She finished out the school year and left teaching to work at Going Places full-time. Now, Katie Blomquist spends most of the year fundraising for the program. To date, the organization has given almost 4,000 bikes to students in need. 

Going Places provides a necessary social component

“Joy is a piece of our social-emotional health that is often overlooked when people think about charities,” Blomquist explains. “We tend to think about our other basic needs such as food, clothing, water, shelter and medical support. But we forget that our social-emotional health is critical to the development of a successful adult. If a child has lacked joy, it can really affect who they are as an adult.”

Giving to kids in need

The Going Places nonprofit looks for schools that have at least 40% of students living at or below the poverty line, though most of their recipients are closer to 80% below the poverty line. (When a larger school has a smaller percentage of kids living at or below the poverty line, the nonprofit will do a miniature bike reveal.)

The organization’s various fundraisers generate enough money to enable Katie Blomquist to give bikes to about two schools a year—roughly 630 bikes in total. 2023 proved to be an exceptional year; Going Places helped four schools and supplied more than 1,000 bikes. 

The group has also motivated corporate sponsors—Boeing recently funded their own bike reveal. Going Places is growing each year and is projected to have at least two more companies funding entire schools with bikes in 2024.

Katie Blomquist’s dream: Bikes for everyone

Going Places works with Kent Bikes to make custom bikes for the kids. The bikes always have a white base and are detailed with a new, bright neon color annually to denote the year they were gifted. They also receive honorary names: Previous batches of bikes have been titled, “The Future,” “The Adventure,” “The Purpose,” “The Pursuit” and “The Reason.” The next group of bikes will be called “The Memory” in honor of a long-time supporter who passed away earlier this year. The nonprofit also supplies the kids with locks, helmets, bike pumps and training wheels when necessary.

Raising funds

Blomquist is the organization’s sole employee, and she has a dedicated board of directors that supports the mission. The group relies strongly on Giving Tuesday donations as well as private contributions year-round. Going Places hosts a gala every year and is the beneficiary of several smaller events.

Creating family time

When a student receives a bike, they need someone to teach them how to ride. Typically, a parent, neighbor, older sibling or cousin steps up. These interactions allow families to bond in ways they may not have been able to before.

Giving kids freedom and a sense of ownership

The Going Places nonprofit sends a survey to the bike recipients six months after gifting them. A significant portion of respondents say their child’s behavior has improved, or they’re sleeping better and interacting with peers more. 

Blomquist explains that one of the biggest benefits of her work is knowing “the bike gives the kids freedom and an escape from a home that is typically not always predictable. Because they’re kids, they can’t get out on their own. A bike gives them a way to just be, to decompress and to have something that’s theirs. It’s a sense of ownership, of value when a lot of these kids don’t even have a bed that’s theirs… [It’s] a classic rite of passage that every child deserves.”

Photo courtesy of Going Places.