Third grader Reese Richards navigates through the safety obstacle course to help learn the rules of the road during the Norton Children’s Hospital Bike Safety Rodeo on Thursday at Sutton Elementary School.

Third graders Reese Richards and Wyatt Barnard both enjoyed, and appreciated, the Bike Safety Rodeo in which they participated Thursday morning at Sutton Elementary School.

Reese, 8, said it was fun, but there were some difficult aspects of the training, particularly when it came to maintaining focus while riding alongside her classmates.

“Learning the hand signals and trying to do that while riding was hard,” she said.

Wyatt, 9, said learning how to maneuver the bike through the obstacles was one of the most difficult aspects for him, but he appreciated the training.

“It’s important to know this stuff so we can all be safe,” he said.

The rodeo consisted of an obstacle course that included various zig-zagging twists and turns, along with stop signs, stop lights and railroad crossings. Students also participated in a demonstration on hand signals and the importance of keeping focus while riding a bike.

Norton Children’s Hospital provided the training in partnership with the school. Bikes and helmets were provided for students.

One of the most surprising aspects of the Bike Safety Rodeo is the fact that many children do not know how to ride bicycles, said Doug Beckhart, a bike safety educator with Norton.

Beckhart has been teaching bike safety for 25 years. The training is important because it helps keep kids safe, he said.

“Norton Children’s Hospital sees a lot of head injuries each year,” he said, adding that they are most common for children between the ages of 5 and 14. “It’s very serious.”

Before the pandemic, Beckhart was doing about 125 of the outreach safety programs throughout the state each year. That has slowly been picking back up, he said.

Sutton has been providing the program for students for about seven years, the last three of which have been in partnership with Norton.

Family Resource Center Coordinator Jennifer Thurman said typically, every third grader participates. This year, however, fourth grade students were allowed to join in because they missed out on the opportunity last year due to COVID-19.

The No. 1 reason they want to offer the safety program is that it will hopefully teach students skills that will keep them safe, she said.

“It’s just a great life skill to have,” she said.

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

Bobbie Hayse, bhayse@messenger-inquirer.com, 270-691-7315

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