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Rotary donates bike helmets to nearly 100 Caribou third-graders

CARIBOU, Maine — Caribou Rotary Club recently donated nearly 100 bicycle helmets to third-grade students at Teague Park Elementary School on Thursday, May 23.

Students gathered in the school cafeteria at 1:30 p.m. for a presentation from Caribou Parks and Recreation Program Director Neal Sleeper and three Rotarians: Bob Sprague, Brent Jepson and Caribou Police Chief Mike Gahagan.

This marks the 26th year of Caribou Rotary donating helmets, with a total of 3,208 helmets donated altogether.

Sleeper explained to the students that Caribou Rotary holds multiple fundraisers throughout the year. Instead of putting that money into its bank account, the Rotary uses it for different projects throughout the year, including the helmet donations.

Nearly 100 Caribou third graders gathered in the Teague Park Elementary School cafeteria to receive bicycle helmets courtesy of the Caribou Rotary Club last Thursday.
(Chris Bouchard)

“They give these helmets away because they feel that you should be wearing a helmet when you’re riding your bicycle,” Sleeper said. “By a show of hands, how many of you ride on a bicycle?”

Nearly every hand in the cafeteria shot into the air. However, less than half of the students raised their hands when Sleeper asked how many students wear a helmet while riding.

“If we were to come in here and ask that same question to all of you,” Sleeper said, “we would hope that for as many that first put their hands up, the same number would put their hands back up.”

Sleeper then discussed how a helmet should be properly worn, not to leave them in a hot car, and, most importantly, how wearing a bike helmet can save a life.

He also explained that, while riding a bicycle, it’s important to ride with the traffic.

“You should also announce yourself as you’re approaching a pedestrian or someone that’s walking a dog,” he said, “so you don’t startle them.”

Whether walking or biking, Sleeper said it’s important to be visible to large vehicles, especially considering all of the large trucks driving around town and delivering steel for the new school project.

He then introduced Chief Gahagan, who presented students with armbands intended to help increase their visibility on the road.

Nearly 100 Caribou third graders gathered in the Teague Park Elementary School cafeteria to receive bicycle helmets courtesy of the Caribou Rotary Club last Thursday.
(Chris Bouchard)

“It’s really important that you be seen on the road,” said Gahagan. “You can wear these and be clearly seen by everybody so you don’t get hit by someone else. So make sure to wear your bands while you’re out on the road.”

Students formed four lines as Sleeper, Gahagan, Sprague, and Jepson quickly handed out all the helmets.

After the event, Sprague said this is among his favorite regular rotary events.

“It gives me goosebumps to do this,” he said. “I love doing this because they get so excited.”

In addition to the bike helmet donations, Caribou Rotary recently donated $50,000 toward the $2 million locally funded portion of the new Caribou school project. The Rotary also tries to send a couple students abroad each year.

“This year we have a student going to Finland,” said Sprague. “They spend time abroad and they’ll be with a Rotary family, then they come back here.”

Sprague said the Rotary conducts interviews with students once they return and that every single one has yielded positive results. Parents often tell the Rotarians their children are “more “self-assured and more self-confident than they were before” after “traveling on a plane and learning about another culture.”

The rotary will conduct an electronics recycling event 7:30 a.m.-noon Saturday, June 1, at Caribou High School.

“If anybody is looking to join an organization that gives back to the community,” Gahagan concluded, “Caribou Rotary is the place to be.”

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