Megan and Laura Kohner preparing to give bikes to Palm Beach County Title I elementary school students.
Anyone who by circumstance ran into energetic twin 17-year-old sisters Laura and Megan Kohner last month likely went out of their way for charity. No, the Wellington girls weren’t asking for cash or sponsorships–just a few clicks of a mouse. The Kohners, juniors at Suncoast Community High School, convinced enough people to go online and vote for their Bike For Kidz charity winning a $5,000 grant from Pepsi, as part of its Refresh Project.
“We registered for the December Pepsi Refresh grant not knowing if our little organization had a chance,” Laura Kohner said, “but we were determined to give it our best shot.” The rules were simple–the approved charities who received the highest amount of votes on the Pepsi Refresh web site would receive grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. Participants could vote once per day via the Internet, or even by telephone text message.
The Kohners–who started Bikes for Kidz with their older brother Andrew to buy and deliver new bicycles and helmets to needy children they mentor–immediately hit social media sites like Facebook and their friends and family hard for support. The December race for clicks was on.
“We communicated with all of the present and past mentors and asked them to vote and to try to get additional voters to vote,” Laura Kohner said. “Our current mentors had their families and friends voting. Our past mentors are in college so they, in turn, got their families and college friends and acquaintances to vote. We asked our friends, school and the entire school district to vote. Basically, we asked anyone we knew to vote.”
They were creative! During their family’s holiday vacation to Utah, they were in three airports. Sporting a poster for the cause, they made the rounds of the terminals collecting votes from computer users and smart phone operators worldwide. Andrew Kohner, now a sophomore at Rice University in Houston, got his friends and classmates involved.
“Wherever we went in the month of December, whether was school, the mall, a holiday concert, ski shop, or restaurants, we showed people a print-out of the Bikes For Kidz Pepsi Refresh page and asked for votes,” Megan Kohner said. “We also supported some of the other causes on Pepsi Refresh and, in turn, we received support from other causes that thought we were a worthwhile organization.”
Each day, the standings were updated on the Pepsi Refresh site. Some days were nail-biters.
“We were very encouraged to find ourselves competitive when the Pepsi Refresh rankings were first published three days after voting began,” Megan Kohner said. “During the month we were ranked as high as 10 and as low as 21″–just out of the money, temporarily. “We were thrilled to end up as No. 14, with a grant of $5,000 to support the kids of Bikes For Kidz,” she said.
Pepsi has reported making more than 1,000 grants impacting 1.4 million people. Funds will go toward supporting efforts such as animal rescues, school band uniforms and instruments, a railroad museum, and even the construction of a skate park for special needs children.
Bike For Kidz–through fund-raisers, grants and sponsorships has presented hundreds of bicycles to elementary school children in impoverished areas since 2008–when it was co-founded by Laura, Megan and Andrew Kohner, as well as then-Suncoast classmate Cody Ellsworth in order to promote education and physical fitness by rewarding children’s literacy efforts. The Kohner sisters have grown the charity to include mentors from several local high schools and multiple programs including Reading Road Racers, Science Super Stars, Buddies & Bikes for Kidz, and their newest program Buddies & Bikes For Kidz Goes Green.
The Pepsi grant, expected to arrive in February, will go a long way toward reaching many more children. “We are thankful for all of those who voted for us and grateful to Pepsi for the opportunity to serve Title I elementary school children in Palm Beach County,” the girls said.
For more information about the organization, visit www.BikesForKidz.org, email Laura and Megan at email@example.com, or call 561-758-4939.