PATERSON, NJ- Under the supportive eyes of several parents, Paterson Police Department’s Community Policing Division, and other amazed onlookers, nearly 60 Paterson youth took part in the first ever Wheelie Race and Stunts competition at Pennington Park on Saturday.
Organized by Shondee Hansford, WheelUp Sports Inc., the exhibition, which featured prizes in four categories including for best decorated bike, footwork, tandem stunts, and wheels up racing, was an opportunity for the participants to “express themselves in a safe zone.”
Referring to the regular occurrence of seeing these same cyclists, and others, riding their bikes along city streets, often because they have limited space to show off their skills, Paterson Police Lieutenant Sharon Easton expressed her hope that the event would draw attention to the need for more recreational outlets for Paterson youth.
“These are good kids,” Easton said. “We are going to keep doing events like this until we get it right,” she continued pointing to the Police Department’s efforts through community policing to keep local youth out of trouble.
While her immediate hope, Easton shared, is to get the kids participating to start wearing helmets and other safety equipment, her long term vision is for a park to be constructed where they can perform regularly, staying off the streets.
Both goals, she and Hansford shared, are possible if the right support, including from sources outside of city government, can be secured.
Mayor Jane Williams-Warren and Mayor-Elect Andre Sayegh also stopped by the event to show express their admiration for and to congratulate the athletes on their skills, encouraging them to continue to act positively for the betterment of Paterson.
Warren, with her trademark upbeat personality and smile, worked her way from rider to rider, and earned cheers when she expressed her disappointment that none would let her take their bike for a ride, before later promising that even though her successor will be in office when the event rolls around again next year they’ll still have her support.
“No one asks the kids how they’d run the city,” Warren told TAPinto Paterson before saying that their compassion is something that decision makers can use more of. “We need to talk the children, as adults we can learn from them.”
Saying that he was tired of seeing negative headlines about Paterson Sayegh exclaimed that all of the participants were winners because all were “partnering with Paterson to make it better.”
“Bikes are my passion,” Jadier Garcia, 14 said during one of the rare instances he wasn’t performing a stunt. Saying that it keeps him away from “negativity” while also offering him an outlet outside of school Hernandez was appreciative of the effort that went into organizing event, and that leaders such as Warren and Sayegh would take time to show up.
“Paterson keeps supporting us,” he said before riding off on one wheel.