Ticket to ride

Published 9:57 pm Monday, December 1, 2014

Bike ownership has many positive effects on the life of a child.

Perhaps the most obvious is better health. Getting into the fresh air and pushing pedals gets them away from the television or video games.

The fitness aspect is high on the list of reasons Suffolk Partnership for a Healthy Community organized a build-a-bike event at Booker T. Washington Elementary School last week.

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Thanks to support from Target, the group working to support a healthier community was able to present a bike each to a dozen deserving children.

The initiative also incorporated some other positive aspects of bike ownership. Students weren’t given bikes they could immediately ride; they had to put them together first.

Each recipient student worked with a volunteer adult from the area, who came armed with tools for the job.

From what I saw, the kids didn’t get a free ride. They were handed tools and expected to invest some sweat equity.

Bikes require maintenance, and in being so involved in assembly, students received a good grounding in the skills and knowledge they’ll need.

Often, a new bike is the first time a child will experience pride of ownership. They’re responsible for their bikes, and it’s up to them to keep them operating smoothly, clean them and keep them from being stolen.

Bike safety was a central aspect of bike build. The adult volunteers mentored their junior buddies on safe operation. The Lynn A. Chiaverotti Memorial Fund of the Brain Injury Association of America provided each student with a helmet, as well as instruction on how to wear it properly.

Bobbie Chapman, the partnership’s interim executive director, said the organization wanted the children to experience a sense of accomplishment.

It also wanted to ensure they got out and used the bikes, she said, and the partnership plans to follow up with parents to ensure the kids are using their new rides.

Giving a kid a bike has many intangible benefits. It helps establish the habit of physical activity early in life.

The program at Booker T. also promoted good attendance, grades and discipline, because bike recipients were selected based on those things.

Next time you see a kid out riding a new bike, learning to be independent and improving their health, you might just be witnessing the result of the work of the partnership and school.