With summer just around the corner, students in Langton had the opportunity to brush up on bike safety last Thursday.
"This is very important," said Constable Ed Sanchuk, Ontario Provincial Police, Norfolk County Detachment at Langton's annual bike rodeo, "especially with the summer months coming.
"I hate to say it," Sanchuk smiled, "but school's almost out - I know mom and dad don't like to hear those magic words - and we've experienced a high volume of collisions involving cyclists in Norfolk County. This is a great opportunity to teach all of our young kids about the importance of bicycle safety, and more important, making sure that they wear a helmet."
Sanchuk stressed the importance of not only wearing a helmet, but wearing a proper-fitting helmet.
"Because it's going to possibly save their life if they actually fall off the bicycle."
Langton Bike Rodeo organizer Carol Overbaugh, president of the Langton Fair, wasn't exactly sure how many years she's been volunteering at the bike rodeo.
"Thirty-five?" Overbaugh guessed. "I think it's been going since 1972.
"My daughter Karen (Overbaugh) was in this. She was in Grade 4, and that year we had a special contest - the top girl and the top boy for both schools won a mountain bike. It turned out it was Karen."
On Thursday, Overbaugh watched two grandchildren ride the rodeo. And both daughters, Amy DeDobbelaer and Karen were volunteering.
"It's very, very nice to be able to witness both (children and grandchildren) all in the bike rodeo," Carol smiled.
"I hoping it continues for future generations because I think it's really important that children are aware of bicycle safety, and wearing their helmets, and remembering the rules so that they can stay safe. So I'm hoping that it continues. I'm hoping someone else will step up to the game and carry on."
"It's been a long time," said Sara VanWynsberghe, a teacher at Langton Public School for the past 15 years, also noting the importance of the bike rodeo and it's timing in June.
"Especially with them out in the countryside, I think a lot of them have bikes and there's a lot of busy roads. They're not always riding the trails, they're riding down the roads. So they need to be aware... maybe more so than kids in the city."
Langton Public School principal Tracy Rodridgues estimated about 60 children from their school participated, starting Thursday morning's bike rodeo at 9 a.m.
"From Kindergarten to Grade 8," VanWynsberghe noted.
They were followed by a similar number of students from Sacred Heart at 10 a.m., bringing the one-day total to about 125-130, up from the annual average of about 100.
Following a bike 'safety check', students worked their way through stations testing bike skill and safety knowledge, concluding at a four-way stop sign. Scores were recorded and trophies for the winners will be presented at the Langton Fair in September.
Bachmann Law - The Personal Injury Group from Simcoe donated 36 helmets to Langton students.
"Corina Bachmann, she's the one that started it (donating helmets in Norfolk County)," said Bachmann Law's Christine Agnew, who was distributing the helmets in Langton. "Helmets for Kids is a program run by Ontario Trial Lawyers Association.
"This will be our fifth year," said Agnew. "We've had helmets for six years, but five years since we've been doing rodeos."
"Not only do they provide helmets to children who don't have one, if the children did bring helmets they check to make sure they fit correctly or if they're not good helmets," said VanWynsberghe. "They actually package them up and send them home with new ones. They provided those helmets for free."
"I think what mom and dad need to realize," said Sanchuk, "is that when you drop that helmet on the ground, if it cracks you need to get a new helmet. It's the integrity of the helmet."
A properly fitting and undamaged helmet, he said, will prevent serious injury.
"I guarantee, that helmet, if they fall off the bicycle, will save serious injuries from their head.
"And mom and dad, we stress they need to set that example. If they're out riding their bicycles with their kids, make sure you have a helmet on, set that example right from the beginning so they know it's important."
In its 40-plus year history, the bike rodeo has helped raise awareness in the community, and progress has been made, said Sanchuk.
"Huge progress," he nodded. "It's very, very important. When you are riding your bicycle you want to make sure that you're putting your child's safety as a top priority. And you're making sure that their bicycle is checked once a year as well - all the reflectors are on it, the reflective tape, if it needs a bell or horn, whatever the case may be depending on where your child rides. It really comes down to the fact that we should be taking an active interest in that. It really builds our kids' confidence when they get on that bicycle."
Sanchuk also stressed the importance of volunteers who make the bike rodeos happen in Nofolk County.
"We couldn't do this without all the volunteers as well. Eric DeSerranno has been instrumental... he can come here and set this up in a matter of minutes. A lot of times our community policing groups are now running the bicycle rodeos - it's great involvement with the community, and you know what, we're all working together for the benefit of our kids, which is really, really important.
"It's a beautiful day, the kids are outside riding their bikes - which they love doing - but it's teaching them about safety. And some of the skills."
With the bike rodeo experience fresh in their minds, Sanchuk said it was a good time for any parent or caregiver to speak to their children about the importance of riding safely and being aware of their surroundings at all times.
"If they can remember something, even if it's remembering to put that helmet on before they leave, and it can save one life, it's all worth it," concluded Overbaugh. "Nothing can replace that."