DALLAS – One by one, as Betsy Orton and others helped the kids at Mi Escuelita Preschool in South Oak Cliff get accustomed to their new bicycle in the school’s adjacent parking lot, the joy and debt of gratitude was etched on the youngster’s face.

After all, when the kids went to school earlier this week they had no idea they were going to be given a free bicycle. But in partnership with Dallas Mavericks guard Wesley Matthews, the Mavs Foundation, Pro Players Foundation and Briggs Equipment, the bicycles and accompanying helmets were donated to the tiny tots from Mi Escuelita Preschool.

Matthews helped build one of the bicycles, gave the kids a brief speech about bike safety and then helped them navigate their way around the parking lot. Orton, the chief development officer of Mi Escuelita Preschool, is grateful for the gifts that she said her students otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford.

“This is a huge day for us at Mi Escuelita,” Orton said. “We’re really thrilled to have Wesley, and the Dallas Mavericks Foundation out here. They’re bringing bikes to our children, which is a huge moment for these children.”

“Everyone remembers the first time they get a bike. These families that send their children to this school qualify for Head Start, which means we’re talking about families who are working poor and right at the poverty level and are at-risk. So the fact that the Mavericks Foundation, Pro Players Foundation and Briggs Equipment are able to provide these bikes for these children is a wonderful thing.”

Matthews was more than happy to be a part of making someone else’s dream come true. Particularly since the kids ranged in ages two-through-five.

“(It’s great) for Briggs Equipment and the Mavs Foundation and Pro Players Foundation to bond together to put this thing on and give some bikes to some kids at a time right now where they just desperately need to be able to be kids,” Matthews said. “Unfortunately society right now, we’re taking youth from these kids and it’s sad to see.”

“As adults we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to do a better job of being patient, and be intelligent in making decisions on our own that will obviously reflect what’s going on with the youth. As parents, we need better parents to be more attentive to what’s going on with kids in school. These teachers bust their butt and it’s a tough situation for everybody, but right now if we can get them as young and as early having fun and being outside and being kids like they’re supposed to be, we’re setting ourselves up for a good situation later on.”

Lucinda Castillo, the site manager for Mi Escuelita Preschool Cockrell Hill, noted that the look on the kids’ face when they initially saw all those bicycles lined up was priceless.

“We do have 116 children at this center, so I’ve heard that each one of our children will be getting a bike,” Castillo said. “Since these families are from low poverty-stricken households, and in order for them to qualify for our program they have to be under the poverty guidelines, a lot of them could not actually afford to get bikes.

“So just the smile on their face is just awesome.”

Neither the kids or their parents knew Matthews, the Mavericks Foundation and others were going to bless them with complimentary bicycles. That, Castillo acknowledged, made the event all that more pleasurable.

“This is a complete surprise to the kids, and it’s going to be a complete surprise to the parents,” Castillo said. “The parents actually had to sign a waiver saying that we were going to get a bike donation, but they think that the bike donation is for the school, not for the kids.”

Ryan Bradley, the executive director of Pro Players Foundation, said his organization is delighted to be a positive influence in the Dallas community. He also pointed out that he was glad to see Champ – the Mavs’ mascot – was also on hand to play with the kids.

“It’s a great way to work with three of our partners in the Mavericks and Briggs and Mi Escuelita,” Bradley said. “It’s something that was great for the kids, and it’s always better when we get Champ and a player to come out.”

“It makes it more fun and more memorable for the kids. It was a great day all around that we’re proud to be a part of.”

Matthews has a daughter who turns one year old next month, so he looked at this event through a different pair of lenses.

“I think I really have a different perspective of it now having a little one whose about to turn one,” he said. “I wish my daughter was old enough to get a bike or she would be out here with them.”

“These kids look like they’re having fun. So when we’re doing something like this that they haven’t done before, that’s also awesome.”

Matthews said he couldn’t recall when he received his first bicycle.

“But I do remember one of my bikes,” he said. “It was a mongoose and it had big legs from the back, and I wanted to do all the tricks and stunts and foolishness that I won’t tell these kids about.”

The kids obviously weren’t doing any tricks or stunts on their new bicycle. But there was a whole lot of smiling going on.

“This is so exciting, even for the teachers and all the staff,” Castillo said. “When we found out we were having bikes donated and we were having the Mavericks come out to actual push this event, we were very excited. But the kids felt that there was something in the air.”

“I really cannot express how thankful I am; much less their parents are going to be very grateful when they see them. I’m just very thankful for the pro players and for the Dallas Mavericks. This is awesome.”

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