Mastic Beach, NY - August 29, 2016 - For the third year in a row, William Floyd occupational therapist Ed Diaz, along with a group of about 50 volunteers primarily consisting of William Floyd teachers, teaching assistants, and Stony Brook University students, as well as William Floyd High School student athletes, worked with approximately 40 students on bicycle-riding techniques.
Participants this year included students with special needs, and for the first time general education students. Expansion of the program this year was made possible by funding secured by New York State Senator Tom Croci, which was used to purchase larger training wheels to accommodate middle and high school students, bike handles and other necessary safety equipment.
Week after week, students learned the necessary skills to become more proficient bicycle riders. They listened and committed themselves to practicing.
“We had a very successful program this year with a record number of kids learning how to ride bicycles safely and without training wheels,” said Mr. Diaz. “When developing the program, I placed my primary focus on those most qualified to assist in providing safety and specialized instruction, along with the social and emotional support that our special education students require. Students with special needs also often require specialized training in the areas of social and emotional development; and I needed volunteers with that particular skillset, knowledge and experience. With this in mind, I naturally turned to our special education teachers and teaching assistants first, as well as our volunteer Stony Brook University occupational therapy students who have become the core coaches in the bike program.”
Additionally, Mr. Diaz highlighted a number of personal stories from this year’s program that demonstrated the commitment of the volunteers, such as Krista Telano showing up and walking with her student while wearing a medical boot for most of the summer; 11th grader Niah Smith showing up every week even when she didn’t have a ride; and Susan Clancy falling and scraping her knee to prevent a child from hurting himself.
“It is highly gratifying for me to watch the coaches as they support and cheer their students every step of the way,” said Mr. Diaz. “This is the kind of dedication that defines what it is to be ‘Floyd Strong.’ I am so thankful to work in a district with truly amazing people who so willingly dedicate their time and expertise to help make a child’s dream come true. This is the kind of compassion that defines what it is to be ‘Floyd Proud.’”
Kevin M. Coster, Superintendent of Schools, William Floyd School District, expressed his gratitude to Senator Croci for his support of the program. “Senator Croci’s funding helped us expand the program and offer more opportunities for students to gain confidence and learn to ride in a safe and controlled environment. Ed Diaz and his staff of volunteers have helped many students achieve their dreams of riding by themselves. I applaud them for their commitment and dedication to the students.”
Additionally, Mr. Diaz expressed his thanks to all of the volunteers, especially those he described as “rocks” of the program: Carmella Currao, Susan Dubois, Jennifer Mayhew, Josh Parez, ToniAnn Powell, Mark Vales and Josh Young, as well as Frank Brust, a William Floyd security guard who volunteers each week to set up the course and serve as the designated bike mechanic.