The Austintown Community Church Preschool Childcare Center parking lot experienced a huge amount of traffic May 22 as over 100 students took part in the annual Bike-A-Thon, also known as Bike Days. The event saw the parking lot transformed into a miniature community complete with bridges, an overpass, train tracks, and many fun stops along the way.
The Bike-A-Thon is an outdoor activity geared to helping teach children about bike safety and transportation. It began weeks ago when children and teachers came up with ideas for the course.
''We have to thank Don Walters of Don Walters Distributing for providing us with big boxes,'' said preschool director Cindy Ellashek.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Preschooler Lee Eckonen has to duck to get through the overpass at the Austintown Community Church Preschool Childcare Center's Bike-A-Thon on May 22.
She said the large appliance boxes are perfect for setting up the small town. In the classroom, teachers and children come up with ideas they would like to see in their homemade village. They take the idea and then transform the boxes and having the children paint them.
''This year we have a bridge, a pizza shop, a rain forest, a school bus, a camp ground and a gas pump,'' Ellashek said.
On May 21, the staff at the preschool showed up early to caulk the parking lot by making roads. The staff then sets up the various stations with parking lots and stop signs.
Before hitting the roads, the children design their own driver's license in the classroom. They model them after the real Ohio driver's license, by drawing a photo and filling in their name and address. Before heading out, the children view a video of the prior year's event so they will know what to do.
The real fun comes from riding the course and obeying the traffic laws. Teachers and assistants are on hand to promote safety and good decision making.
Ellashek said this is the 45th year the preschool has been holding Bike Days. While it is a fun experience that promotes safety and gives the children good physical exercise, it also has a secondary purpose.
''We use the Bike-A-Thon to raise funds to help local needy families,'' Ellashek said. ''This year, we are helping a family with medical needs. They don't know as yet that we will be helping them. God has always provided us with a person in need for this fundraiser.''
She said the children are given envelopes to take home, and parents can give whatever they can afford. The money is collected and then given to the needy family.
One interesting aspect of this year's event is the fact there are second generation bike riders involved in it. Victoria Jones is enrolled in the preschool, and her mother, Danielle Jones, 36, helps out.
''I rode the course in 1981-83,'' she said. ''It really hasn't changed much.''
She said the cardboard box buildings may be different, but the basic concept is still the same. Ellashek said the program works the same today as it did 45 years ago because child development doesn't change.