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Sun warms Earth Day celebration

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PABLO — On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, Mother Nature cooperated for a few hours during this tumultuous spring and allowed blue skies and sunshine to win the day during the fifth annual Ronan Walks and Rolls Earth Day event. 

However, according to extension director Virgil Dupuis, “fifth-annual Ronan Walks and Rolls Earth Day event” might be a bit of a misnomer. 

“It’s evolved over the years,” Dupuis said while taking photos of smiling kids getting fitted for free helmets. “This is the fifth one. Originally, it was just to show community appreciation for the bike paths being put in (when U.S. Highway 93 was reconstructed six years ago between Polson and Pablo). It’s grown into a health fair of sorts, and it’s been going pretty well. I think this is the nicest year we’ve had for a while ... it’s usually cold and snowy.”

And while the snow was at bay, the children did play. About 250 kids stopped through the staging area near SKC’s gymnasium. Volunteer mechanics like Coco Blood of St. Ignatius checked children’s bikes for safety and worked on donated bikes, which were given to children without wheels. 

“I think it’s great,” Blood said as she cleaned and lubricated the handlebars on a soon-to-be-ridden bike. “It’s good to get the kids out and moving.”

Not far away, Tribal Health employee Lance Hawkins fitted helmets and ran the bike safety course, teaching children the proper way to stop and check for cars while crossing a street. In all, Hawkins said his organization had given away roughly 300 helmets. 

“I just try to make the kids aware of the traffic safety signs and teach them what to do when they approach. We also make sure they have reflectors on their bikes. Once they complete the course, they get a little license to say, ‘Hey, you know what you’re doing, and you’re OK,’” Hawkins said. “That’s huge, and I feel a lot better that there’s a kid ou there who knows what’s going on. It’s huge.”

Amelia Adams, a volunteer at the event, looked on with pride as her daughter Aaliyah circled the courses interior. 

“She’s having a really good time,” Amelia said with a smile. “I can’t get her to come in; she just keeps going on the course.”

This year’s event was sponsored by and saw volunteers from Ronan Parks and Recreation, Salish Kootenai College Extension, Tribal Health, several tobacco prevention and diabetes programs, Kicking Horse Job Corps and many more. 

“It’s a nice family event,” said event organizer and Ronan Parks Director Jennifer Rolfsness. “The kids who need bikes and helmets go through the little course, we have lots of volunteers here ... it’s just a really nice deal for the community and encouraging families to get out and do a little walking or riding together.”

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