Thirty kids saddled up for a bicycle rodeo at the Okeechobee County Agri-Civic Center on Saturday. The free event hosted by the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, Okeechobee City Police and Okeechobee County Fire Rescue promotes bicycle safety and encourages kids to obey traffic laws and use proper safety equipment.
With biking being the second most frequent sport that leads kids to an emergency room visit, the Sheriff’s Office prioritizes rider safety. “Developing safe practices now will benefit these kids for a long time,” said Corporal Jack Nash, the Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer.
Okeechobee City Police Chief Donald Hagan, Sheriff’s Office Major Michael Hazellief, and County Commissioner Terry Burrows attended the event. They treated parents and spectators to a race between Major Hazellief and Okeechobee City Police Lt. Reyna. But before the start, Chief Hagan made sure they both had helmets. His agency fit each kid with a new helmet thanks to the generosity of Phillip DeBerard, Injury Attorney. As a child, DeBerard would attend bicycle rodeos in Okeechobee that his father sponsored, and he is now happy to support them. He donated 100 helmets so Okeechobee kids could be less prone to a bicycle accident-related injury.
After competing in a bicycle safety course, attendees ate lunch, and the pit masters – Major Hazellief and his brother Okeechobee County Fire Captain Justin Hazellief served burgers and hotdogs from the Sheriff’s Office competition BBQ. The rodeo closed with awards and a 12-bike giveaway. Lake Okeechobee Elks Lodge # 1871 donated the bikes because Lodge President Cheryl Gumz is passionate about giving back to the community. Twelve lucky kids took home a new bike, and Fire Rescue made sure each one had properly inflated tires. “Having great partners like the Elk’s Lodge and Philip DeBerard is essential to teaching kids bicycle safety,” Corporal Nash said.