*A version of this story appeared in The Budget’s March 21, 2018, Local Edition. Outdated information has been removed from the original story.
By Stacey Carmany
At least 170 children and adults in Tuscarawas County will receive a special gift this summer thanks to the recent efforts of members of United Steelworkers Local 2737 and the generosity of the local community.
Each spring for the last two years, the local chapter’s Next Generation Committee has hosted a special event for area children called Bike Safety Day as a way to raise awareness about the importance of practicing safe riding habits.
“It’s always a fun time,” said committee member Lillian Miller. “We have an obstacle course set up at the event and the kids can ride their bike around. We do little safety drills with them to help them understand how to ride their bikes in a safe way. We do balloons. We do face painting. We try to make it a big, fun day for the kids.”
Past events have also included free food for participating children and their families as well as bicycle helmet giveaways and door prize drawings, with funding for the events provided by members of the group and community sponsors.
“If we can arm them with a little bit of safety or to keep them safe while they’ re out riding around on their bikes, then it makes us feel better and it makes our members feel better,” Miller explained.
Committee Chairman Cory Ayers noted that the same types of activities will be offered once again this year, but the group has also been working to take the event to the next level.
For the first time this year, the group will also be distributing repaired and refurbished bicycles to any community member in need, both children and adults, with no questions asked while supplies last.
“I have a buddy who’s a steelworker in Pennsylvania, and he has a project where he works with a bike shop. They collect a bunch of bicycles, get them restored and get them out to the community,” Ayers explained. “This year, he brought up the idea of putting our events together and doing it here in our local area.”
Earlier this month, the local group announced that it was seeking used bicycles of all sizes to repair and distribute during this year’s Bike Safety Day event. A drop-off day was scheduled for March 11, and the response was greater than anyone could have imagined.
“Honestly, when we were having the bicycle drop off, they were hoping for maybe 50 bikes to be dropped off, and we had close to 150 bikes dropped off,” Miller shared. “It kind of took us by surprise, and it was amazing how much support this community gave.”
Ayers explained that Bicycle Safety Day is just one of the many ways that the local chapter, which represents nearly 800 workers from seven area manufacturing businesses, is working to give back to the local community.
“The United Steelworkers, they work in the community, and we also like to show that we also give back to the community,” Ayers shared. “We’re not these union thugs. We like to help out the community.”
In addition to sponsoring and organizing the annual bike safety event, the group has also come together to raise funds for several area nonprofits including the Friends of the Homeless and the Harbor House Domestic Violence Shelter.
This year’s Bike Safety Day event will be held on Saturday, June 16, and is tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and bikes and helmets will be distributed on a first-come-first-served basis.
While the bike giveaway is also open to any adult in need, Miller noted one of the main reasons the group wanted to expand its Bike Safety Day offerings to include bicycles this year was to help brighten the spirits of area children whose families may be experiencing financial uncertainty due to factory closures and layoffs. “The more and more jobs we lose in Tuscarawas County, the more and more you have families that aren’t able to provide the bare necessities for their families, much less Xboxes and bicycles and things like that,” she explained. “Any way that we can help to give a little bit of joy back to these kids is a great opportunity for us.”