Their smiles said it all.

Seven children from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pomona Valley strapped on helmets and rode their new bikes inside the Banfield Veterinary Clinical Center at Western University of Health Sciences, the result of some College of Veterinary Medicine bonding.

The bikes were donated to the Boys & Girls Clubs as part of a team building exercise by the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) staff and faculty. The CVM faculty has two retreats every year – one in May at the end of the academic year and one in late July before the beginning of the academic year.

“We always end the year with activities designed to remind us of the importance of the collaborative spirit,” said CVM Dean Phillip Nelson, DVM, PhD.

The philanthropic twist came courtesy of the “Charity Bike Build – Together We Care” program, organized by TeamBonding, a corporate team building specialist. More than 60 faculty and staff were split into groups. Teammates solved puzzles and answered trivia questions, which earned them “money” to “buy” the parts needed to put together the bicycles.

“I’m always impressed when teachers go beyond the classroom,” WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, PhD, told the CVM faculty and staff. “This shows us you care for people. It’s a wonderful message to us, to the community and to yourselves. You should be proud of yourselves.”

The 14 bikes were given to Boys & Girls Club members as a reward for having the highest attendance in two programs that focus on reading and creative writing. Some students got to pick out their bikes personally while the remaining bikes were delivered to their new owners.

Roy Johnson, area director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pomona Valley, thanked CVM for donating the bikes and also for organizing health fairs at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“It’s important for kids to have another relationship with an adult to bond and grow,” he said.

The retreat is a nice way to celebrate the end of the year and to get re-energized before a summer of hard work, said CVM Assistant Professor Suzana Tkalcic, DVM, PhD.

“The positive energy and laughter brings us back on track and gives us time to exhale,” she said.

The children’s arrival on campus was a surprise for the faculty and staff. Adding a philanthropic component to team building makes the experience more rewarding, said Peggy Schmidt, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACVPM, Director of 4th Year Curriculum and Associate Professor, Production Medicine and Epidemiology. 

“It’s just nice to make a difference," she said.

The difference was evident as the children gave faculty and staff high-fives and fist bumps after choosing their new bikes. Pomona resident Daniel Terrazas, 9, said he hasn’t had a bike for about three years, ever since he broke the wheels trying a wheelie. He looked forward to riding his new bike to school and in the neighborhood.

“I like this bike. It’s pretty fast,” he said. “I’m really happy right now.”