New wheels on the road to healthy living.                                  Photo by Evanston Photographic Studios

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On June 19, The North Shore Chapter of Links, Inc., held a celebration at Family Focus, 2010 Dewey Ave., to distribute bicycles to children ages 8-11. Thirty children were registered and are participating in the Can You Imagine ME: Healthy Eating and Activity Program. This culturally tailored program was developed by the More-house School of Medicine in Atlanta, Ga.

The McGaw YMCA conducts the physical component of the program each week, preparing these children for its annual triathlon, scheduled for July 7 this year. The Triathlon includes swimming, running and cycling. At the beginning of the program, the McGaw group met with parents to give them an overview of this program and to obtain their verbal and written permission for their children’s participation in the program.

The children appeared to be totally surprised with the bicycles at the June 19 ceremony. At the beginning of the ‘Healthy Eating and Activity Program,’ each child’s height and weight was taken. One of the goals of this program is to address childhood obesity, but the children were  unaware that this information would be used to purchase Trek bikes specifically for each of them. The bikes are to act as incentives to keep the children physically active.

Four Evanston police officers conducted bike safety workshops and registered each child’s new bicycle.

Donations to cover the cost of the bicycles and locks came from members of the North Shore Chapter of Links, Inc. A significant part of the donations came from the Sharpe Kids Foundation. Yvonne and Butler Sharpe, founders of the Sharpe Kids Foundation, Inc., set up negotiations with a local Trek bicycle vendor to provide a bicycle and helmet for each child.

Presence Saint Francis Hospital conducted the nutritional component of the program, and the Safeway Foundation and Dominick’s provided a tour of the store and samples of healthy, snacks.

Links President Karen Mines Williamson, vice-president Janice Baskerville, program co-chairs Dr. Sandra Waller Shelton and Lynette Murphy were instrumental in establishing this program at Family Focus.

The Triathlon will take place on July 7 at Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave.