By Jessica Tuggle
SEBASTIAN -- Nearly 200 feet pedaled down Powerline Road in Sebastian during National Bike to School Day on May 8.
Sebastian Elementary School in Sebastian was the only school in Indian River County and one of 57 in the state to formally participate in the inaugural national bicycle safety emphasis day, a press release from the school district said.
Physical education Coach James "Coach B" Batory organized the event and had about 100 students, along with some parents and teachers join in the mile-long bike ride from the Sebastian Post Office on Main Street to the elementary school grounds.
Ave Rhea, 6, woke up excited to participate in the activity and arrived at the meeting place with her bow-topped helmet and bicycle, ready to ride.
Her great-grandmother, Bea McKinney, said Ava had been seriously practicing riding her bicycle without training wheels, and after all that practice, she was able to ride on her own.
"She has worked so hard, and she was determined to ride without training wheels for this Bike to School Day," Ms. McKinney said.
Ava's face was proud and glowing as she arrived at the school and carefully navigated her bike to be parked with others.
"It was a little hard, but it was fun," she said.
Caleb Wocsin, 6, also rode into school on two wheels, but his desired mode of transportation was a scooter.
As soon as he was given permission to start making his way down the road, his legs began pushing off just as fast as they could go -- and it was pretty fast.
"I caught up with the fifth graders," said Caleb, a first grader.
It was the first time for Jade Blatter, a fifth grader, to ride her bike to school. As with all the students, she was fitted to ensure her helmet was properly fitting and sitting on her head.
"They had to tighten the straps on top, and you're supposed to have two fingers under the chin part," she said.
Indian River Fire Rescue battalion Chief Cory Richter is certified in helmet fitting and safety and checked on the students before they began their ride.
"Helmets are so important, even in a minor fall from when you're standing still," Chief Richter said.
Broken legs and arms can be set and fixed, but head injuries can leave permanent damage, he said.
Students that arrived without a helmet or with an ill-fitting helmet, were given a free helmet from the Indian River County Health Department.
Officer Steve Marcinik from the Sebastian Police Department gave the children safety and road rule instructions before they left the post office in small groups.
"We had a really good turnout today," Officer Marcinik said.
Coach Batory has organized "walk to school days" once a month since October last year, and was excited to incorporate bikes into the mix.
Sebastian Elementary physical education classes have been all about bike safety for the last few weeks with every child, kindergarten through fifth grade, watching a bike safety video, participating in demonstrations, and discussing the importance of wearing a bike helmet, a press release said.
He said he felt it was important for the students to have hands-on experience with bike safety, and it provided a great way to be healthy and active.
"I watched that video with them 28 times," Coach Batory said in a press release. "We plan on this becoming an annual event for our Sebastian Elementary Sea Turtles."