Springfield Police Division Officers Dave Lyle and Gary Wilson started noticing children on bikes getting struck by cars and not wearing helmets and wanted to do something about it.
So about 18 years ago they started a bicycle camp for children to promote safety.
The program started small and children were required to bring packed lunches, but it has evolved into something greater.
“It’s way bigger than us,” Lyle said. “It’s huge.”
The Springfield Police Division kicked off its 18th annual free summer bike camp on Monday, with 63 children attending in the next two weeks.
The children ages 7 to 14 are divided into two, five-day long camps, with about half attending this week and the others attending next week.
“We try to keep the numbers manageable for safety,” Sgt. Joe Tedeschi said.
Camp started Monday morning with safety inspections and bike rules. As the week progresses, the children and officers take bike trips.
Today they will go to Snyder Park, where they will have pizza. On Wednesday, they will go to the reservoir and have lunch at Buck Creek State Park. Then on Thursday, the group will make a long trip from the camp’s base at 49 E. College Ave. to Young’s Jersey Dairy.
On Friday they will graduate and the participants will receive a T-shirt that says they survived the camp.
Some of the lunches are provided for the students from restaurants such as Olive Garden, Lee’s Chicken and Cousin Vinny’s.
About 20 sponsors provide assistance and donations for camp. Some sponsors include Target, the bike shops, Allstate and the Elks Lodge No. 51.
This wouldn’t be possible “if it wasn’t for those folks helping us,” said Tedeschi.