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Kids read to earn chance to win bike, program founded by Marine vet

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Books for Bikes program
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Young students who completed a reading challenge this school year are now getting a chance to get a head start on an active summer after winning bicycles given away in a drawing held by the Yuma Masonic Lodge No. 17.

In total, the Lodge pulled funds together to give away a total of 50 bikes to schoolchildren ranging from the first to fifth grade for the “Shermen L. Allen Memorial Bikes for Books Program.” Thirty of the bikes were given out in a drawing that took place Saturday at noon in the Woodard Junior High School Cafeteria to students from Desert Mesa, G.W. Carver, J.B. Rolle, O.C. Johnson, Palmcroft and Roosevelt elementary schools.

Twenty additional bicycles are to be given out to children of Dateland Elementary School District on Monday.

At the beginning of the year, current member of the Lodge David McHone said that the organization reached out to the schools informing them that children must read a minimum of 12 books to participate in the program.

Then, teachers signed and approved the student’s reading logs after they met the challenge, with some students exceeding the minimum amount.

“I read 20 books,” ten-year-old Mario Hernandez of O.C. Johnson Elementary School piped up excitedly after winning a bike at Saturday’s drawing. “This gives so many kids chances to win bikes for reading at school and education.”

Students who applied for the program were also required by teachers to read books at their respective reading levels and each student was evaluated for reading comprehension.

Once the logs were submitted to the Lodge, members then held a drawing to select winners of the bicycles.

The event carries on a tradition that was led by the late member of the lodge, Shermen L. Allen, or “Tiny,” for many years. According to McHone, who now leads the reading program, Allen was a retired non-commissioned officer who passed away last year.

Around 350 children applied for the 2017 drawing in the Yuma School District alone, and this year the organization gave out 14 more bikes than were given for last year’s challenge, McHone said.

The lodge member noted that each year the organization strives to increase the number of bikes given out, to encourage children to read and become active.

“We are hoping to grow the program again next year,” Mchone said at Saturday’s drawing. “We had a fundraiser at our lodge back in December to really boost the kitty that we pull money out of for this program. It is a self-sustainable program”

McHone noted the Lodge continues to support the program because it provides building blocks for children as they develop in school.

“We feel like this program helps them grow and strengthens their basic skills,” McHone said. “Some of these kids, this is the only chance they will ever have to have a bicycle. We had a teacher stand up and she gave a little presentation where she explained to us that it’s not just about the reading, it’s about getting the kids interested in something other than playing video games or just watching television. The main fundamentals of trying to teach a student are getting them to be able to read and comprehend.”

“Once they jump that hurdle there is no telling where the students can go in their learning,” McHone added.

Additionally, Yuma Regional Medical Center provided coupons for the children to receive helmets through the county’s Safe Kids Program and the Lodge itself purchased the bicycles from Target.

For more information on Yuma Masonic Lodge No. 17, visit www.yumalodge17.org or call 928-783-7993.

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