As part of a nationwide YMCA initiative to encourage physical activity among children, the New Canaan YMCA and New Canaan Nature Center have joined forces again this year to hold the New Canaan Bike Rodeo. The event, a celebration of the Y's Healthy Kids Day, will take place May 15 from noon to 2 p.m. at the New Canaan Nature Center. The rain date is May 22.

YMCA Healthy Kids Day is a nationwide celebration designed to foster healthy living among children and their families, and is a part of the Y's larger efforts to help them become physically active. More than 700,000 kids and families are expected to participate in the Y's Healthy Kids Day events this spring at nearly 1,500 Y's nationwide.

"Keeping kids healthy and safe is at the core of what the New Canaan YMCA stands for," Bridget Philipp, YMCA senior director of wellness and health enhancement, said. "The word `exercise' doesn't sound very enjoyable to many people, especially kids, but getting them active through activities like riding a bike is the key to building healthy habits that last a lifetime. Last year we took over 60 children through the safety inspection and skills course on their bicycles. This year we hope to provide the same fun learning experience with the addition of a few more activities."

"The Bike Rodeo is a natural fit for our two organizations, since we both share a common goal of serving the New Canaan community and providing fun, safe opportunities for families to spend time being active and outdoors," Keith Marshall, New Canaan Nature Center's director of education, said.

For the bike rodeo, families are encouraged to ride or bring their bikes to the New Canaan Nature Center. Preschoolers should bring their tricycles to use in a specially designated area. The Bike Rodeo event is a non-competitive event made up of a series of stations, each focusing on an important aspect of safe cycling. Participants will have their bicycles inspected and will learn about and practice bicycle-handling skills that will increase their enjoyment of bicycling -- and could some day save their lives. Parents are asked to participate as well. Older kids and adults can test their mountain biking skills after all the other stations on a specially marked woodland trail loop. New this year will be a beginner's BMX station geared towards 6 to 10 year olds. Children will learn about BMX, balance, and some basic beginner moves.

Along with the Bike Rodeo event, the Nature Center grounds will be open for use, and families are encouraged to picnic and walk the trails. Two bike patrol officers from the New Canaan Police Department will be on-site providing safety tips and "rules of road." Cycle Center of Stamford will also be on hand to run safety inspections and helmet checks, as well as to answer any bicycle-related questions. There will be an arts and crafts station, tattoos and face painting.

More Information

Fact box

For more information, contact Bridget Philipp at the New Canaan YMCA, 203-966-4528, ext. 126, bphilipp@newcanaanymca.org, or Keith Marshall at the New Canaan Nature Center at 203-966-9577 ext. 15, kmarshall@newcanaannaturecenter.org. Additional information may be found online at www.newcanaanymca.org or www.newcanaannature.org.

Founded in 1954 by a group of community volunteers, the New Canaan YMCA is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to enrich all people in spirit, mind, and body. As an inclusive community service organization, the YMCA turns away no one for reasons of race, religion, or economic background and last year awarded nearly $340,000 in direct financial assistance. Serving the communities of New Canaan, Pound Ridge, and South Salem, the YMCA also strives to partner with a variety of outside organizations to further its role as a community service provider.