Plainfield after-school program teaches kids about bicycle safety and leadership

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PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) — A new after-school program is getting buzz at Central Elementary School in Plainfield.

“Trailblazers in Motion” started as a vision from Plainfield Central Elementary School physical education teacher Eli Wheeler. The program evolved after local business Gear Up Cyclery and school leaders jumped at the idea to get it in motion.

The program immerses students into the world of cycling and allows them to develop bike safety and leadership skills.

Students meet every Wednesday with Wheeler, other school officials, the Gear Up Cyclery staff and Sgt. Todd Knowles of the Plainfield Police Department.

“Plainfield has a trail system of over 20 miles that surrounds the community and we really wanted to have an opportunity for kids to access that,” explained Julie Thacker, Central Elementary School principal.

Gear Up Cyclery owner, Dennis Gibbs, talked to “All In’s” Randall Newsome about why he decided to partner with the school to help start the program.

“My wife and I have seen so many kids ride bikes and everybody usually rides on the wrong side of the road, riding with their legs extended improperly and riding without helmets,” Gibbs said.

Sgt. Knowles, a school resource officer, avid cyclist and a member of the Plainfield Police Department’s Patrol Division, joined the program and helps secure the routes for the students.

“We think it’s great that Sgt. Knowles has a desire to share his love and knowledge of bicycle safety with students in Plainfield,” said Deputy Police Chief Joe Aldridge.

Wheeler says the program also teaches kids how to navigate life, aside from just their bicycles.

“We’ve been bringing in community leaders to talk about working hard, perseverance,” Wheeler said.

Gear Up Cyclery’s owner, Dennis Gibbs, made an initial donation to the program with 19 bikes. Principal Thacker wrote a grant to Duke Energy that ultimately provided for the purchase of five additional bicycles including safety equipment.

After two weeks of bicycle safety and basic skill building, students will make their first eight-mile ride during Thursday’s session. The ride will start in the school’s parking lot and proceed to the town’s trail system for the majority of the ride.

Thacker plans to write another grant for two accessible bikes, further expanding the reach of the program.

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