Trike riders at Gaithersburg preschool raise money for sick children
Obstacle course builds skills on three-wheelers
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A miniature neighborhood sprang up Friday in a Gaithersburg preschool's parking lot, with wooden houses the height of teachers' knees and roadways drawn in sidewalk chalk.
But the pint-sized community wasn't just for fun it was built to provide lessons in tricycle safety.
About 175 students from the private Goddard School's 3-, 4- and 5-year-old classrooms paraded outside throughout the morning to take a turn at maneuvering the obstacle course.
"Awesome!" Kais Wehbe, a 4-year-old from Clarksburg, yelled toward his mother as he rounded a corner at breakneck speed.
"Last year, he didn't know how to ride," Andrea Wehbe said. "This year he does, so he just wants to plow through."
Wehbe said she appreciated the program because the family just moved to a new neighborhood and she wants Kais to be safe around the unfamiliar driveways.
The Goddard School in Gaithersburg raises money each spring for children who need medical services through the St. Jude's Trike-A-Thon program.
The program, developed by St. Jude's for early childhood educators and child care centers, teaches children riding safety and about helping others by gaining sponsorships from friends and family for St. Jude's.
Trike-A-Thons are staged throughout the year, but many schools opt to have theirs during the Week of the Young Child, which was April 10 to 16 this year.
More than 8,600 preschools and day care centers across America participate in the Trike-A-Thon program, according to the program website.
Starting April 11, students at Goddard School, which accepts children from 6 weeks to 6 years old, learned bike safety rules, culminating in Friday's obstacle course, where older students showed off their new skills: buckling helmets, pedaling, looking both ways before crossing and steering clear of obstacles.
Teachers stood at the end of driveways to several miniature houses and reminded the kids to stop and look before moving on. A few teachers also stationed themselves at a short uphill stretch, which many of the younger students struggled to conquer.
Trike-A-Thon events are used to raise awareness of the St. Jude's Children Research Hospital, which provides cancer treatments to children whose families are unable to pay. Many donations from the school's families come in on the day of the obstacle course.
Last year, the school challenged itself to raise $4,800, but collected nearly twice as much $9,187, said Sherry Hamre, an assistant director at Goddard.
This year, the school wants to raise $5,500. Donations are being accepted through April 29. About $2,000 had been collected by Friday evening.
Hamre said the program helps teachers monitor their students' development, keeps them safe outside of school and teaches them a valuable lesson about giving to others.
"We want them to get that early sense of giving and using what we have to help others," Hamre said.