A small electric Spider-Man bike, two bright pink miniature horse-drawn carriages and three kid-sized neon green four wheelers were just some of the prizes given away at UF Shands’ ‘bike rodeo, safety and health fair’ event Saturday morning.
About 800 attendees, including 330 children, gathered at UF Health Professional Park at 3300 SW Williston Road for a four hourslong festival focused on promoting childrens’ bike and car safety.
Each child was given a wristband with their own raffle number, which qualified them for the giveaways. Besides the 86 bikes and 13 children's cars, organizers also gave away family packages, which ranged from gift cards to theater tickets.
Organizers announced a new batch of winners over the speaker system in roughly thirty minutes intervals.
Owen Hoover was the first winner. The 7-year-old received a brand new black and green bike.
“I want to name it ‘Gator.’ Or maybe I’ll name it ‘Thunder,’” Hoover said with a grin.
After picking up their new ride and being congratulated by special guests Albert and Alberta, winners of the raffle were directed to a booth run by officers with the University Police Department. At the booth, officers custom adjusted the height of each bike to match its new rider and registered its serial code with the department.
This event wasn't UF Health's first rodeo. The first happened about 10 years ago, and the annual event was put on hold for the past three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said organizer Danielle James.
“We tried to do this back in 2020 and had started organizing it back in 2019,” said James, who works as a clinical nurse leader at Shands. “Because of COVID, we had to cancel that event. So, for the past few years we weren't able to really establish the event,” said James, who works as a clinical nurse leader at Shands.
Besides being the first one since 2019, Saturday’s event stood out from previous rodeos because of its location and attendance.
“We’ve always had this event at the O’Connell Center parking lot, but, unfortunately, we were unable to do that this year. So we were scrambling for a venue, until someone on our leadership team brought up this park,” James said.
Despite the scramble, the new location turned out to be an improvement, James said.
“The grass area is just a beautiful property and we wanted to utilize it to its full extent, and it has turned out very nice,” James said. She and her co-organizer, Jeanie Brian, said they were thrilled with the turnout, which was the highest they’ve seen.
Besides the raffle, a popular attraction was the fire truck stationed by the entrance, which firefighters with the Gainesville Fire Department helped children to safely climb inside and explore.
“A lot of kids are scared when it comes to the gear and all the heavy stuff we put on, so through events like this we try to make it more normalized for them and let them know that we’re here to help,” said Sara McKinnon, a firefighter with the Gainesville department.
“Kids can be nervous at first, and they don’t want to get inside the truck. So, I always start by saying ‘do you want to drive the truck?,’ which makes them excited,” said McKinnon.
Beyond the firetruck and free gifts, the event was filled with volunteers and health care workers posted at different stands giving away snacks, goodie bags and informational pamphlets.
Jordyn Zyngier, a 23-year-old Shands pediatric trauma and injury prevention spokesperson, was at the event to spread awareness about all-terrain vehicle injury prevention. ATV injuries are the fourth highest mechanism of injury in pediatric patients right now in Alachua County, Zyngier said.
“My focus today is educating parents and kids on how to be safe on ATVs,” Zyngier said. The main thing that she hopes kids and families take away from her booth is the importance of helmets.
Whether volunteer or attendee, everyone seemed happy to be there, which was enough for James and Brian to consider it a success. James said they hope to continue this event annually for as long as possible.
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