Three years ago, the uncle of local Girl Scout Emily Wheeler, was the victim of a hit-and-run incident while riding his bike. Although her uncle has since made a full recovery, it sparked an idea in the teen to help spread awareness for bike safety in pursuit of her Gold Award.
As a member of the Girl Scout Troop 23921 for the past 11 years, Wheeler, 15, developed an program called “Smart Wheelers.” The educational initiative, she said, is built on three principles: encourage, educate and recycle.
“The first part is to encourage the community to ride bikes more safely, then to educate the community on bike safety and maintenance, and finally, to recycle, which is to show the community where and how they can recycle their old bikes,” she said. “I’m trying to teach the community about bike safety rules, so if more people know about it, there’ll be less accidents.”
Starting back in August, Wheeler has traveled around Bordentown, setting up an interactive table at local events with merchandise, prizes and handouts that educate and encourage residents on the benefits of bike safety.
Along with her effort to instill the tenets of bike safety with the general public, Wheeler said she has been volunteering at organizations whose efforts relate toward her project as well.
“For the recycling portion, I volunteered at a non-profit organization called ‘Second Life Bikes’ in Asbury Park who take old bikes, fix them up, sell them or donate the bikes to those who cannot afford a bike,” Wheeler said.
As Wheeler has become more involved with locals throughout Bordentown, she said she’s been able to learn and receive support from her neighbors.
“My favorite part is finding out different things about my community I didn’t know about because when I tell people about my project, they’ll say things like, ‘I’m a part of this and I can help you with this,’” Wheeler added. “It helps a lot because I didn’t know all these resources we had here. I realized how wonderful my town is to help me out with this project.”
With Wheeler making a continuous effort to meet the required goals for her project, which includes a minimum of 80 hours planning and working on her Gold Star project, she intends for the program to be sustainable after she potentially achieves her goal.
“I’ve always liked to bike and definitely want to for as long as I can, but one of the [requirements] of my project is ‘sustainability,’ so I have to find a way to keep it active when I’m finished,” Wheeler said. “I want to get my community aware, so they know how important it is to be safe on bikes – to understand the premises of them, to know how important bikes are and become more aware how to do key [maintenance] like changing a flat tire.”
If you would like to donate your bike to “Smart Wheelers,” send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.