Once atop their new rides, the beaming smiles on the faces of a dozen Grade Four students at Joseph Brant Public School said it all.
On June 16, they rode off on new bicycles compliments of Toronto Police 43 Division and Canadian Tire’s Jumpstart program.
The winners were chosen through a raffle among the 60 children who participated the five-week program combing sport and bike safety led by the Division’s Community Response Unit officers.
Superintendent Mark Fenton said he hopes the program will roll on.
“I am proud of my officers who have done a tremendous job of partnering with this school,” he said. “The children are leaving here today with new bikes and safety lessons they were taught. As the program grows, we hope we will be able to give out more bicycles.
“There is also an intangible benefit here in the relationship established between the officers and the school. Meeting the officers in this environment has been a totally different experience than they might otherwise have traditionally interacting with police. The benefit of that experience is something you can’t put a price tag on.”
The Jumpstart helps community groups provide recreational programs for youth.
“When Toronto Police came to us and asked for bikes to teach the children road safety, I explained to them that we don’t fund an opportunity where they just go in for one day and come out,” said Freida Rubletz, the regional manager for Canadian Tire Jumpstart program in the Greater Toronto Area. “My suggestion was that we build this into a program that engages sport and recreation and do the bike safety and biking as a recreation. They came up with a five-week program combining sport and bike safety.”
Constables Amanda Frederick, who is a school resource officer for 30 schools including Joseph Brant, and Ryan Simpson were instrumental in running the program with the students.
“When we came to the school the first time, the kids were stand-offish,” recalled Simpson. “When we pull up now, they are waiting for us. They see us as friends and people that they can approach. In addition to teaching the kids road safety, we have been able to build strong relationships.”
Dan Puglielli, the principal at Joseph Brant, said students have benefited from the program.
“We are always looking for an opportunity where bonds cane be established between the police and our students,” he said. “Through this program, our students now recognize there are people in our community who care for them and want to work with them.”