“Who here doesn’t know how to ride a bike without training wheels?” shouted Jaco Coetzee, while holding a small helmet in the air and a knee-height bicycle without pedals or training wheels on the ground.
Kaiden Lowe, 4, popped his hand in the air and shouted back, “Me!”
Children and their families were gathered around Coatzee and other members from Umpqua Valley Bicycle Outreach were gathered in the back of the YMCA on Saturday morning. Tiny orange cones set up on a nearby concrete basketball court provided a basic course for beginning bicyclists — just one of the events for the YMCA’s Healthy Kids Day on Saturday.
And now, Kaiden wanted a chance to show his skills.
Coetzee helped Kaiden on the balance bike, and soon, he was underway.
“We believe that biking is the best way to be healthy and the most fun way to be healthy,” Coetzee said.
Coetzee brought a trailer full of bikes, cones and other equipment from Umpqua Valley Bicycle Outreach. He started the organization to help at-risk kids find a healthy outlet in the bicycle industry. He had some of the students from the organization come help kids with the bikes and do safety checks on bikes brought from home.
The annual event spnsored by the YMCA happens nationwide to promote healthy lifestyles for kids and parents, according to Healthy Lifestyle Director Angela Marx. This summer’s theme is Awaken Summer Imagination.
“It’s an event that’s specifically focused on promoting healthy kids, healthy lifestyles, healthy families,” Marx said. “I like to look at our community and what we have available, especially in the summer; camping, fishing, hiking and things like that and how we can encourage people to be healthy and activity in our community with the resources we have.”
A flight crew from REACH Air Medical Services provided tours and answered questions about its air ambulance helicopter after landing in the parking lot.
“It’s a good opportunity to be a part of the community and let them know we’re a local resource if they need air medical transport,” said paramedic Sam Lillie. “If we ever transport a child and they have been at an event like this before, I think it does alleviate some anxiety.”
Emilia Ortega, 6, asked questions about the helicopter and took her turn sitting inside.
“I think it was so cool because I could see inside of there,” Emilia said.
Her mom, Stephanie Ortega, hopes Emilia never needs a ride, but knows she might have to one day due to a genetic condition called pectus excavatum.
“There is a potential,” Ortega said. “I hope it never happens. At least there’s not that stigma, or that fear of riding in a small aircraft like this to help ease their mind.”
Emilia seemed fully aware of the potential, but still excited to take a ride for fun.
Inside, the gym was littered with bean bag toss stations, hoola hoops, sit-n-bounces, bounce castles and other games for kids. Topics included water safety, child abuse awareness and the importance of reading.
Jennifer Williams has been taking her children to the YMCA for about four years, but this was her first year taking them to Healthy Kids Day.
“We come just to set a good example,” Jennifer Williams said. “Let my kids need to know the importance of living an active lifestyle, eating right and also participating in the community.”
Kaiden finished his laps on the balance bike and tried to get it back into its stand. He ran over to his mom, Kristen Lowe, beaming at his success on the bike.
“I have one with training wheels at home, but it doesn’t need them anymore,” Kaiden said.