By Brianna Kudisch
On Sat., June 4, Bike Livingston was held in the town of Livingston, marking the fourth annual event. The event was free and 240 people registered to participate in it.
Organized by Helen Flores, executive director of the West Essex YMCA, the Bike Livingston has a two-fold purpose: to encourage a healthy lifestyle and to raise awareness about blood diseases that require bone marrow transplants.
With Livingston’s bi-centennial four years ago, the event organizers were interested in creating an event that encouraged more people to ride their bikes, without fear of being injured.
Additionally, Flores’ grandson, John Faro Vitale, was diagnosed around Thanksgiving of last year with Fanconi Amenia, a rare, incurable blood disease that requires a blood marrow transplant.
When joined together, both aspects helped create what Bike Livingston is today. The organizers made it more festival-like by having a face painter, a bounce house, a barbeque and other family-friendly activities.
Even performer Hunter Hays was there, a local musician who often plays at Livingston Bagel, another one of Bike Livingston’s sponsors.
Sponsors, including St. Barnabas, the West Essex YMCA, Regal Bank, Eastman Managing Company, and others, helped cover the cost of such items like t-shirts, food and bounce house, so Bike Livingston could remain a free event for families.
The event started at 9 a.m. with a safety talk, and then families and individuals chose the bike route they wanted to take. There was a four-mile route, seven-mile route and one as far as eleven-miles.
Children could choose the four-mile route, and if they got tired, a refreshment stop along the way provided a point where they could stop and turn around to go back.
After the bike races, people could join together to enjoy the family atmosphere including various children activities and the barbeque lunch. It was also the time for the bone marrow drive in which people could donate, either their blood marrow or money.
Planning Bike Livingston went as far back as Feb. and March. When asked if any changes needed to be made, Flores remarked, “Now we have [the planning of Bike Livingston] down pretty good.”
Flores hoped the event would help people create a healthier lifestyle, while also increasing the number of blood marrow donors. Awareness is also an important factor in the blood marrow drive, as the more people know about it, the more people can help.
“It’s not only important for my grandson, but it’s important for all those kids that have a kind of blood disease or cancer that they can’t fight off alone,” said Flores.
The organizers appreciate everyone who came out and supported the event, whether it was through biking the course, participating in the blood marrow drive, or simply encouraging their family and friends to have a healthier lifestyle.
Combining biking, blood disease awareness, and festival-like activities made Bike Livingston not only a great event for everyone who came out, but also for those who will reap the positive effects of the event, through the generosity of people.
“All in all, it was a wonderful day,” said Flores.