Local kids given bicycles for good behavior at 11th annual Ivy Tech giveaway

By Megan Erbacher of the Courier and Press

Francisco Gomez could barely contain his excitement when his name was called Tuesday afternoon.

Gomez, 8, didn't hesitate to give his new bicycle a hug.

The incoming Glenwood Leadership Academy third-grader received the bike through Ivy Tech Community College Southwest's 11th annual Public Safety Academy bike giveaway.

Gomez was surprised when he heard his name called. This is the second time he's won a bicycle through the program, but his first without training wheels, he said.

He loves riding his bike.

"When you feel the air in your face it feels like you're flying," he said.

About 200 local middle and elementary school students were rewarded Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon with a new bike, helmet and lock for completing the camp with good attendance, behavior and attitude. Two adaptive bicycles, designed for children who are physically unable to ride a standard bike, were also part of the giveaway.

Students throughout Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. sites and the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville attended the Public Safety Academy. Individual program coordinators chose students for the honor.

"I wish I could ride it to school," Viktor Casteel said of his new bike.

An incoming Glenwood fourth-grader, Casteel, 9, said he could follow the bus and use his lock to keep the bike safe at school. His older siblings, Heaven, 11, and Aiden, 10, also won bicycles.

Evansville Bicycle Club members and Gerling Law employees helped students fasten helmets and adjust bike seats. Bike club board member Paul Jensen shared safety tips with the kids, and they watched a safety video.

The event is funded by private donations solicited by Chris Kiefer, Ivy Tech educator, co-organizer for the event and EVSC School Board member. This year, Kiefer said about $24,000 was raised.

The program is a partnership with EVSC's 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the city of Evansville Department of Parks & Recreation, the YMCA of Southwestern Indiana and the Boys & Girls Club of Evansville.

Dave Schutte, co-organizer of the event and Deaconess VNA Plus development program director, has been involved with the program since it started. Schutte said 52 bikes were handed out the first year, and the program continues to grow.

"We want to encourage students to participate," he said. "To have a reason to get up and go to these programs every day — in the morning as an academic piece through the EVSC, which is valuable for the children; and in the afternoon they have recreational programs provided by city of Evansville."


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