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Courtesy photoKindergartners and first graders line up at the 2017 Willow Wind Bike-A-Thon.

Students put passions to use raising funds for Willow Wind

Some fundraisers support activism, but not necessarily in a way woven too tightly to its purpose — make a pledge, buy some cookies and call it good. The annual fundraiser at Willow Wind Community Learning Center, however, sets out to be educational and thought-provoking for its student participants.

This morning, June 4, the center will close off its parking lot and create safety-cone-lined lanes for little bikes and scooters for its third “Bike-A-Thon.” This year the theme is “Hear Our Voices.”

The annual event is based on of what students have learned each year. This year students learned about making the world a better place, from social activism to environmentalism and everything in between. Students were asked what they were really passionate about and what kinds of things they would want to stand up for, then tasked with creating costumes to ride in based on those topics, organizer Rebecca Mercado said.

“This year our theme became ‘Hear Our Voices,’ after so many kids started getting involved in social activism (especially the older ones) and learning about how they could make a change in the world,” Mercado said.

Mercado is the parent of a seventh grader and has been the event organizer for many years now. She also serves on both the Willow Wind Community Association, the organization sponsoring the event, and the Parent Council, as well numerous other committees.

“Some of the smaller kids will be riding with a stuffed animal on their bike to show their love for nature and animals, and for the older students, they are very into women’s rights and many of the sixth, seventh and eighth graders will dress as Rosie the Riveter,” Mercado said. “And the boys in their classes will support them by riding in dresses. All their ideas!”

The funds raised this year will go towards improving the science classroom, and hopefully towards their food garden with the addition of a new greenhouse, Mercado said.

Approximately 200 kindergarten through eighth graders will ride with their appropriate age group for a 30-minute “heat.”

There will be stations for students to decorate themselves and their bikes, music, games and a BMX area where some of the older students will demonstrate and teach some of the younger students easy tricks.

Special guest Ty Vennewitz, a seasoned circus performer, will entertain the crowd with his acrobatic Cyr wheel (big enough the user rides inside) and teach hula-hoop tricks. Nathan Riddle of United Bicycle Institute, a professional downhill mountain biker, will help with any mechanical issues and answer questions about biking.

At the end of the event, students will come together to celebrate as a school, and the class with the most pledges raised will be announced. They win an ice-cream party. Every student receives a medal for participating.

“Nothing happens without action ... so not only are they letting their voices be heard, but they are literally moving during this whole event,” Mercado said. “They are learning to be leaders and make a difference in their community in their own way and through whatever they are specifically passionate about.”

Although limited space means the event is not open to the public, parents are encouraged to attend.

Contact Ashland freelance writer Caitlin Fowlkes at Caitlin.fowlkes@gmail.com.

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