Children receive free helmets, safety tips and prizes at annual Verona bike derby |
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Michael DiVittorio

More than 100 children received new bicycle helmets courtesy of Riverview Athletic Association at the recent Verona Bike Derby. It was one of the largest crowds to participate in the Verona Police Department’s 20th annual event.

The 700 block of East Railroad Avenue was blocked off for several hours June 8 so folks didn’t have to worry about traffic.

Lower Valley Ambulance personnel were on hand to adjust the youths’ helmets so they were safe to ride. Allegheny Health Network’s LifeFlight had a medical helicopter in the area and let children climb inside. Additionally, Verona police, fire department and public works had their vehicles on site for children to explore.

A local State Farm agent provided reflective stickers for the bikes and helmets, and free food was provided by Verona Giant Eagle and Oakmont Bakery. Daily’s Juice Products provided drinks.

“We had more participation from the kids and LifeFlight and Lower Valley,”said police Sgt. Jerry Frankos, who has been at the helm of 19 of the events. “They were always here for us, but they really helped out this year. I’m happy we had good weather. It couldn’t have gone any better this year.”

Resident Gloria Lach brought her sons Landon Jenkins, 3, Max Jenkins, 7, Mason Jenkins, 7, and Thomas Jenkins, 14, to the derby.

“We love it over here,” Lach said. “A lot of families around here. Safety (is important). I love seeing all the kids playing around.”

Bike mechanics from Dirty Harry’s in Verona did free safety inspections at the derby. Technician Mark Rodman suggested parents check the brakes, make sure the bolts are tight and squeeze the tires before letting their children ride.

“Sometimes you’ll feel a tire and it will feel hard; that’s dry rot,” he said. “You start riding it and the tire will eventually crumble.”

Rodman said riders should have full range of motion when pushing the pedals and not have locked knees. He also recommended professional inspections twice a year for avid riders.

Mayor David Ricupero said the bike derby was started by June Stieck, the borough’s first female police officer.

“They had the same crowd, if not more,” he said. “It brings the kids out and families out. The post office has always been involved with us.”

Max said his favorite part of the day was the prizes. Last year, only two bikes were given away. This year, five bicycles were raffled off, along with other prizes.

“I like how they bring everybody in Verona together and make sure the kids are healthy riding their bikes,” Thomas said. “You’ve got to watch out for cars. Make sure you have our helmet on, make sure your brakes work before you start riding. We all ride our bikes.”

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