Riding into summer

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Riding a bike is one of those quintessential summer activities, but not all children are able to afford a bike.

Students at Eiber Elementary, 1385 Independence St., won’t run into that problem thanks to the Project ReCycle program, which gave away 255 bikes on May 18.

“We pick one school a year that has 50 percent or more free and reduced lunch and do this giveaway for the students,” said A.J. Stapleton, executive director of Project ReCycle. “We really want to make this an experience for the kids who get the bikes.”

The event took on a carnival atmosphere with more than 100 volunteers on the scene — from both Project ReCycle and Eiber — helping students with everything from handing out water bottles and helmets to face painting, grilling burgers and popping popcorn.

Principal Stacy Bedell said the event has been in the works since September.

“All our kids who registered will receive bikes that have been donated and repaired so they’re safe,” Bedell said. “We had a raffle in our classes for who would win a brand new bike — but all students received a bike.”

The event was created in 2008, sponsored by 3t Ministry, which still sponsors the annual event. This year was the first under the new name Project Recyle.

“I was serving on a board for a health center and saw the need for children to have bikes,” Stapleton said. “It’s a fun way to exercise for the kids.”

Once each student picked out a bike they wanted, it was inspected by a group of technicians to make sure everything on it works properly, then students could take it to a decoration station where they could add pinwheels and other decorations to their bikes.

For 10-year-old Angel Smith, the best part of the morning was getting her bike — something she said she had been looking forward to.

Since exercise is a huge benefit of biking, groups of students were taken on rides along the nearby W Rail line so they could learn how to ride safely and get some exercise at the same time.

“Taking the students on rides goes really well with the stuff we’re doing to keep our students healthy,” Bedell said. “Part of our healthy schools initiative is making sure the students stay active outside of school and make healthy choices.”

Bedell added that the timing for the give away is perfect, as students will soon be heading off to summer break, and they’ll have bikes to use during their time off.

For more information about Project ReCycle, visit www.projectrecycle.org.