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Rodeo pedals health and good will
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It wasn’t the Tour de France which opened this past weekend, but the annual Great Bend Bicycle Safety Rodeo last Friday was a success.
The day is designed to educate children and their parents on safety as relates to bicycles, Donna Shaffer, Barton County Health Department health clerical supervisor, told the County Commission Monday morning.  Activities included an obstacle course, helmet and bike fittings, snacks and the opportunity to receive a free reconditioned bicycle and\or bike helmet.  
Sponsors included the Great Bend Police Department, Central Prairie Resource Conservation and Development and the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, Health Department and Landfill.
Shaffer said they had 61 bikes and 55 helmets to give away. There were 60 youngsters who showed up for the event, held at Brit Spaugh Park.
Topics included the threat of brain injuries and the need to ride with a helmet and the rules of the road. The course allowed participants to put what they learned into practice.
In the end, the children received a certificate of completion.
“This is a good program,” said Sheriff Greg Armstrong. “A lot of kids who could never get a bicycle (due to the expense) can get one.”
There is another plus for the program. “It helps keep kids active,” said Health Department Director Lily Akings, adding it serves as a way to help fight the childhood obesity problem.
“I want to thank all the departments that came together,” Shaffer said. “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, 205 bikes and 263 helmets have been given away.