Beneath his plastic helmet, Jesus Moreno wore a big grin as he boarded one of 575 bikes made in China and sent to his elementary school to help make a merry Christmas and improve grades.
"I never had a bike before," said Jesus, 11.
Jesus and his fellow Mary J. Scroggins Elementary School pupils, pre-kindergarten through the fifth grade, were among 10,000 students from at- or below-poverty level homes within eight counties in the Houston area, Texas, to receive new bicycles on Saturday from Elves and More.
The Houston-based nonprofit Elves and More has provided free bicycles to students in southeast Texas schools in low-income neighborhoods for 10 years. The program is the brain child of founder David Moore, who heads a family jewelry business after retiring a decade ago as a business strategy consultant for the oil and gas industry, including Sinopec and PetroChina.
Moore said he has been to China so often in his previous job -- and currently with Elves and More to Shanghai, where the bikes are manufactured -- that he was given a Chinese name, Moo Dawei.
"There are no frills, but these bikes are extremely durable," said Moore, 61. "These bikes will last 10 years."
One reason for his recent trips to China was to visit the manufacturer. The largest bikes ordered for Elves and More were specifically designed by Moore and his organization and made to specification by the manufacturer.
The bikes are given to students free of charge during the Christmas season in return for fulfilling a contract with their teacher. Earlier in the school year, the participating students agree to improve their grades and- or their conduct in the classroom.
"I worked hard," said Jesus. "I did my homework and I got an 'E' (excellent) in conduct."
Moore said the program's target students are the ones who make the lowest grades.