In July 2011, Rhiannon Becker’s 13-year-old cousin Mikal Bond was severely injured when a vehicle collided with her bicycle near Lawrence.
On June 1 of this year, Becker organized a benefit bike ride that started in Claflin to help with Bond’s medical expenses.
“Her life will never be the same,” said Becker, a Claflin native. She spoke to the 54 5-14 year olds gathered at Brit Spaugh Park Friday morning for the sixth-annual Bicycle Safety Rodeo.
“But, she was wearing her helmet and she’s alive,” Becker said. “Where there is life, there is hope.”
And this is her message to all young cyclists. “I just wanted to come over and stress the importance of following bicycle safety and always wearing a helmet.”
That is the point of the rodeo, said Janel Rose, health educator with the Health Department. Her department joins forces with Barton County Sheriff’s Office, Great Bend Police Department and the Barton County Landfill to sponsor event.
The safety rodeo opened with check-in at 8:30 a.m. and ended with snacks 10:30 am. The rodeo is designed for kids, but organizers invited parents to stick around, and a lot of them did.
Following check-in, the youngsters sat for Becker’s talk, heard a presentation from Pam Stiles on bike safety and listened to a rundown of bike rules from Great Bend Police Officer Jefferson Davis.
Then, those who needed wheels were released chose from a wide variety of reconditioned bikes from Ellsworth Correctional Facility, varying in style, color and size. Helmets, offered free from the Health Department, were then handed out and fitted.
After this, the young riders were ready to hit the road. A formation of orange cones was set up to simulate different traffic situations, and the kids had to practice coming to a stop, looking both ways, and navigating turns.
The timing of the rodeo is ideal, Rose said. “We do it early in the summer to get the kids thinking about safety and get helmets on them.”
“I want to thank all the departments that came together,” said Donna Shaffer, Barton County Health Department health clerical supervisor who helps organize the rodeo. “This is a huge benefit to the children of the community.”
The rodeo dates back to 2006 as a helmet give-away. Thanks to the Barton County Landfill’s involvement with the bike restoration program at Ellsworth Correctional Facility the idea grew to include bikes as well.
Inmates at ECF have been rehabilitating donated bikes since 1999. The landfill has been a part of the effort, serving as a drop-off point of battered bikes, since 2001.
Thus far, hundreds of bikes and helmets have been given away. The Landfill and the Sheriff’s Office will both accept old bikes year round for the recycling program at ECF.
For more information contact Barton County Health Department at 620-793-1902, or the Barton County Sheriff’s Office at 620-793-1876.