The back parking lot at Chugiak Elementary School transformed into a bike riding safety course last Saturday as scouts from Venturing Troop 300 organized by Tori Parsons of Thunderbird Falls checked over brake systems and tire inflation of bicycles and Sara Turcic of Safe Kids Alaska adjusted plenty of chin straps on helmets to ensure an appropriate fit.
It was a picture perfect spring day in Chugiak – the kind of day that easily could include a whirl on two wheels to celebrate the warmer weather.
Yet, according to Parsons and Turcic, heading out for a joyride on one’s bicycle needs to occur after a safety check, a review of the rules of the biking road and most importantly, a check on the condition and fit of last year’s helmet.
“We want to encourage everyone who is riding a bicycle to wear their helmet and to wear it properly,” Parsons told the ECHO News at the end of the event on a sunny day that brought more than 25 young bike riders to the free event sponsored by Troop 300 and Parsons as her project for her Summit Award. “We want to make sure your brain is contained inside that helmet and not smashed.”
That last comment sounds a bit like something Turcic might say. Also a longtime resident of Thunderbird Falls, Turcic is a registered nurse whose nearly decade-long tenure as the director for Alaska Safe Kids has overseen the distribution of thousands of no-cost helmets to children – and some adults.
Parsons and Turcic aren’t just neighbors whose families hang out together – although they do that quite a bit as well.
Their connection is a deep one that started when Parsons was born prematurely weighing in at only 1.9 pounds and Turcic was her nurse in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Providence Medical Center Alaska.
“When I first met Tori, she was fighting for her life,” Turcic said.
And so began a friendship that has lasted nearly two decades.
It was Tori’s grandmother that discovered that Sara, the NICU nurse, lived in the same neighborhood.
As Tori’s mother and father, Kelly and Marty Parsons, went through the draining journey that was their daughter’s 81 days in the NICU, the two families became intertwined.
So it was no surprise a couple months ago when Tori was determining what project she would like to complete as part of Venturing’s Summit Award (similar to the Boy Scouts of America Eagle Scout award) that she called Turcic and asked about conducting a bike safety rodeo.
Spring is the perfect time for such an event, Turcic told her.
Kids are anxious to get out and ride their bikes that have been put away in the garage or storage for the winter.
Chances are darn good those bikes need a tune-up. Tires most likely are not fully inflated. Young – and older – bike riders ought to review the safety rules of the road and practice bicycle directional hand signals before heading out for a cruise, Turcic said.
Parsons wanted to conduct the bike rodeo prior to Wed., May 10 which is National Bike to School Day. Participation in the event is officially encouraged by the Anchorage School District and Parsons and Turcic believe this year’s early snowmelt will bring prompt even more students to ride bikes to school.
“I wanted to make sure kids and their parents had an opportunity locally to have their bikes checked over and to make sure their helmets were fitting properly,” Parsons said as her mentor and former nurse looked on with obvious pride. “Safe biking starts with a helmet that fits right.”
Editor’s Note: Reach Sara Turcic at Safe Kids Alaska via email at: [email protected]. Learn more about Safe Kids Alaska online at: www.safekids.org/coalition/safe-kids-alaska. Learn more about National Bike to School Day online at: www.walkbiketoschool.org.