by Dolores Woodington

I recently attended a team building program in Chicago. 130 participants from a major financial lending institution came together to take part in a team building activity to help build teamwork, relieve stress, and give back to the community. I was overwhelmed by the amount of energy and excitement that took over the room when they learned that the bikes they were about to build were going to be donated to underprivileged kids from the local chapter of Big Brothers Big Sisters. They were touched when they learned that the bikes would be given to 8-10 year old children who probably never had a bike before.

Participants in this team building program walked into a room filled with bicycles and tables loaded with arts and craft supplies. They divided into groups of six. Each group elected a leader and teams consisted of employees from various divisions and roles. Their first task was to create a name and slogan for their fictitious bike company. These got their wheels moving, so to speak, and they came up with team names such as: “On-the-Go”, “Cycle Away”, “Speedy’s”, “Happy Pedals” and “Star Wheels LLC” just to name a few.

As a team, their goal was to build a bicycle, decorate it, promote their bike company by acting in a skit with an accompanying jingle, and create a card for the child who was to receive the bike.

Each team had to accomplish a series of tasks in order to earn bicycle parts, such as the frame, handlebars, seat, pedals, helmet and other bike accessories. Teams raced to build the bikes, decorated them with stickers, balloons, ribbons, streamers, and bells. Simultaneously, other team members created large cards and team posters to go along with the bikes for the children. Throughout the team building program, a bike technician ensured that each bike was properly constructed.

During one of the activities, teams had to balance a number of nails on top of one nail that had been hammered into a wood base. Teams laughed and strategized on how to be successful on this task. The sound of laughter and nails hitting the tables filled the room. Amid the chaos, teams began to figure it out. Through communication, planning and teamwork, everyone successfully accomplished the challenge and earned the front tire for their bicycle.

Once all of the challenges had been completed and the bikes were all constructed, teams performed their skits and sang their jingles. Several groups even danced in a synchronized dance routine…talk about stepping out of their comfort zones! In the meantime, as a surprise to all of the participants, children from Big Brothers Big Sisters were arriving in the conference room next store our ballroom. The participants did not know that the children would be there to receive the bikes and the children did not know they were there to get the bikes. This was going to be a true Oprah moment!

Once the skits wrapped up, the conference room doors flew open and two dozen children burst into the room. The kids screamed with excitement when they saw that they were getting new bicycles and the participants relished in the emotional chaos of what was happening. There was not a dry eye in the room.

The group hired a professional photographer to capture the moment. I was overwhelmed with emotion and I am proud that I had the opportunity to take part in this bike building team building program. The event built camaraderie among the participants and changed the lives of 24 children. I can’t wait to do it again.