MONTCLAIR, NJ - Montclair has made participating in the International Walk and Bike to School Day a tradition. This global event, which began back in 1997, now involves communities all around the world. On Wednesday October 7 Hillside Elementary School, not only embraced the concept, but also threw a party.

All of the Montclair Schools participated in this event, with Edgemont School dedicating and entire lane for bikers, each school celebrated the day in a unique way.

With the cooperation of Hillside families, there were less than 10 cars at drop off and children were seen flocking to the school from all over town. For children who lived too far to walk, two locations as far as Porter Park and Montclair High School were arranged for students to meet and travel in groups.

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As the Hillside school bell rang, hundreds of children had gathered on the front lawn. Some were participating in a yogathon by Bernie Silva of Realbody Boot Camp, while others were eating fresh apples donated by Whole Foods Market.

Health and wellness liaison Natasha Mathias Somaiya, parent and local dentist, organized the event, which included police escorts from the Montclair Police Department’s Community Service Unit. Officers were able to demonstrate to families the importance of safety precautions, as well as how to follow traffic rules and safe traffic patterns.

Parent Eileen Lundberg walked her children and brought along their spirited puppy dog Topper, who seemed to revel in all of the attention thrown his way.

Lundberg said, “The event was so much fun for Hillside families! Having the teachers, vice principal and principal meet the walkers and escort them to the festivities was extremely exciting for the kids.”

Bikers were advised to wear helmets and be safe. Everyone also took a moment to acknowledge the Crossing Guards who keep the children safe. 

Parent Stephanie Gerson said,  “I thought that the greatest part was that the kids were so excited about the apples. The apples I send to school come back untouched but these all went.”

TapIntoMontclair caught up with Laura Torchio, program coordinator for Eat, Play, Live Better to ask how the endeavor had gone town wide. Torchio said, “Bike&Walk Montclair was present at Edgemont, Hillside and Mt. Hebron.  The Montclair Police and Montclair Engineering worked to have a temporary bike lane at Edgemont.” 

Torchio said,  “One thing I love about my involvement for 10 years is - what started as a tentative pilot with many hesitant parents and lots of hand holding, has now become an institution in the district.  Parents get it.  Kids love it. And principals and teachers have embraced it because kids who eat healthy and are physically active, do better in school.”

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