Most kids, rich or poor, city or suburb, want a bicycle of their own.
Bicycle enthusiast groups say kids get their first taste of real independence when they get their own bike. Owning a bike also may put them on the road out of the cycle of poverty. Not only do they find healthy recreation, but they learn motor skills and expand their geographical environment. Kids with bikes can become more self-sufficient and get to places in the farther reaches of their own neighborhoods.
In Hudson County, which has the fourth highest percentage of people living in extreme poverty in the state, buying a bicycle is often not a priority. A report on poverty published in 2011 showed that 25.7 percent of kids in Hudson County live in poverty, with the highest percentages in Union City, Jersey City, and West New York. In many cases, Hispanic kids are among the poorest of the poor in these communities. In Hudson County, Hispanics make up 42.6 percent of the population, more than double the state average of 18.5 percent.
‘It is our belief that every child deserves an active, healthy childhood.’ – Nancy Aleman
300 bicycle giveaway
This is what made the giveaway of 300 bicycles at Union City’s Jose Marti Freshman Academy on April 5 such a big deal, in a joint project by members of CarePoint Health Network, Emerald Financial Resources Hispanic Advisory Team, Walmart of Secaucus, and long-time Union City business Pensa Movers.
CarePoint and Emerald raised more than $27,000. It allowed them – thanks to a discount from the Secaucus Walmart – to purchase the 300 bicycles, locks, and helmets. The merchandise was distributed at April 5 event to Hudson County kids who qualified in their schools for free or reduced cost lunches. This was the barometer used to determine poverty level.
Emerald Financial Resources, a Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company with four New Jersey locations, including nearby Englewood Cliffs, partnered with CarePoint Health for its fifth annual Bikes 4 Kids program.
“It is our belief that every child deserves an active, healthy childhood and Emerald’s Hispanic Advisory Team is committed to making this happen,” said Nancy Aleman, one of the members of the team, a diverse group of professional financial agents of Hispanic backgrounds who specialize in serving the Hispanic community.
“CarePoint Health is dedicated to the Hudson County communities we serve and we are proud to be the premier sponsor of this event,” said Allyson Miller, vice president of marketing and public relations.
CarePoint Health is a relatively new health network in Hudson County that owns Bayonne Medical Center, Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and Hoboken University Medical Center. It also provides health centers for the poor, and has a large number of private medical practices under its growing medical services umbrella.
The children who were chosen completed an essay on why they feel it is important to have a bike.
Pensa Movers of Union City donated their trucks to deliver the bikes to the event held in Union City from the Walmart store in Secaucus.
The day’s events included the give away, but also information and instruction on everything from nutrition, safety, and exercise to sage advice from Union City police officers on anti-theft protection – so that the kids could keep the bicycles they got.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.