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Coalition Takes Part in Bike-a-Palooza


This article originally appeared in the Lewiston-Auburn Sun Journal

Bike-a-palooza is warm-up for Dempsey Challenge 

Mark LaFlamme, Staff Writer
Lewiston-Auburn | Thursday, October 11, 2012

AUBURN — It’s a crazy world and things seem to change by the minute, but there’s one thing you can always count on: children and bikes.


AMBER WATERMAN/SUN JOURNAL.  Fast Freddie Rodriguez, left, follows closely behind Beryle Martin as she helps Mia Arvelo, 5, of South Portland navigate a curved course at the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA in Auburn on Thursday evening.

Bike-a-Palooza was a warm-up to the Dempsey Challenge, three days of bike rides, walks and runs to raise money for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing, beginning Friday. The event was designed to teach children bike safety and the rules of the road. 

They were a big part of the Dempsey Challenge warm-up Thursday when 40 kids got together at the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA with a legend in the world of bicycles.

Fast Freddy Rodriguez was on hand to teach the kids biking safety and to stress the joy of riding.  “Cycling,” said Rodriguez, who came from Berkeley, Calif., for this weekend’s Dempsey Challenge, “is something you can do all of your life.”  Like he had to tell the kids.

Wearing helmets that they got to take home, the third- through sixth-graders looked right at home on borrowed bikes in the YMCA gymnasium. They rode obstacle courses and participated in races during which the slowest rider was declared the winner.


AMBER WATERMAN/SUN JOURNAL. Fast Freddie Rodriguez participates alongside children as they see who can cross the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA gym in the slowest time Thursday evening during Bike-a-Palooza.  




“I’ve been riding bikes my whole life,” said one fourth-grader as he wheeled across the gym.

Rodriguez has participated seven times in the Tour de France. He competes in races all over the U.S. and Europe. To anyone in the world of cycling, he’s a star.

“This guy’s job is to ride a bike every day,” said Jim Tasse, education director for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine. “How cool is that?”


 AMBER WATERMAN/SUN JOURNAL.  Maine Cycling Club member Dan Cake helps Katy Kimble steady her bike as they cross the gym floor at the Auburn-Lewiston YMCA during Bike-A-Palooza on Thursday. The first 75 children who registered received a free Specialized helmet and a goodie bag.





Mia Arvelo, a 5-year-old on a pink bike, almost ran into trouble a few times as she mugged for the cameras while breezing across the gym. She stayed upright, though, because she’s a kid and kids just know how to ride.

The bicycles, 25 of them, will be given to local groups and donated to needy children.

Tess Caldwell, fundraising coordinator for the three-day Dempsey Challenge — a fundraiser for the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing that begins Friday — took to high ground on a row of bleachers and watched the children ride. These children, she mused, might grow up to be active participants in the annual challenge, which this year so far has drawn more than 4,000 registered participants.

Of course, it never hurts to have stars like Patrick Dempsey and Fast Freddy chipping in.

“They both have such passion for this,” Caldwell said.

She said a few more things about the event, but like most others, after a while she became mesmerized by all those kids whizzing by on all those bikes.

“This,” she said, “is just really cool.”