On a breezy overcast spring day in Sparks, a group of local bicyclists and city officials gathered at Sparks City Hall to participate in Washoe County’s annual “Ride for Reading” event where community members deliver donated books to a local school.
“This is my third year participating in Ride for Reading. It’s a wonderful thing to do and it gives me a reason to get on my bike,” says 30-year Sparks resident Ernie Bargar.
The event took place during the May 13-17 Bike to School Week and began with Sparks Mayor Ron Smith reading a proclamation about the annual event and Washoe County Bike Safety Month. Afterwards, 20 or so participants (including a class from the High Desert Montessori Charter School and Sparks city councilmen Donald Abbott and Paul Anderson) take off on their bikes, stopping for a nutrition break at Ardmore Park next to the Larry D. Johnson Community Center on 12th Street.
Following a quick snack of apples and bananas and grabbing a reflective backpack (donated by NDOT) containing a book, the two-wheeled group rode to the Kate Smith Elementary School to give the students their books and chat with them about bicycle safety at a special school assembly.
The Ride for Reading event started about six years ago when WCSD Police Officer and Safe Routes to Schools Program Director MJ Cloud brought it to Northern Nevada after seeing its success in the southern region of the state. The WCSD coordinated with Spread the Word Nevada, the Washoe County Health Department, the City of Sparks, Sparks Police, and the Nevada Department of Transportation to help plan and organize the event.
The Audi Reno Tahoe Cycling Team also donated cowbells to the kids at Kate Smith Elementary to greet the Ride for Reading participants who rode in with their new books.
“We’re riding a total of five miles today,” Officer Cloud says. “The ride got very long in previous years, so we wanted to simplify it this year. Next year the City of Sparks will be challenging the City of Reno to Ride for Reading, but we will still keep it a recreational event,” she adds.
Her favorite part of the event is seeing the students get their book and the pure excitement about being able to take it home.
Rolling into Kate Smith Elementary, students of all ages rang cowbells and slapped cyclers hands as they rode in. The wiggling group of pre-K to sixth graders then gathered for an assembly where Officer Cloud and the Sparks city councilmen talked to the kids about bicycle safety and the importance of wearing a helmet.
“This is my first time attending the event, I was excited to see the whole mob of cyclists ride in (to Ardmore Park)- that was awesome,” says Washoe County Health District Health Educator Camarina Augusto. At the snack break, Augusto said that the health district is happy to be a part of it because it is always trying to incorporate new ways of getting children and adults active and maintaining a balanced diet.
“There are so many bike paths to explore, and it’s always fun to encourage our students and staff members to grab their helmets, tune up their bikes, and ride back and forth to school each day. It’s a great way to get some exercise, see the neighborhood, and cut down on the number of cars that are traveling near our schools,” says Cloud.