UPPER TOWNSHIP — Township Committee praised four local students for their work on a bicycle-safety video, work a bike-safety advocate said could save lives.
Ocean City High School students Alexa Johnson, Aili Martin, Jacob Schneider and Zach Card all live in Upper Township. They created the videos with Schneider and Card promoting obeying traffic-safety signs while Johnson and Martin’s video discourages bicyclists from riding on the sidewalk.
Johnson was not able to attend the Monday meeting, but the three other students were on hand to accept the awards and receive applause from officials and those attending the meeting.
The committee presented the award at the beginning of its Sept. 10 meeting, with Mayor Richard Palombo joking, “I’m sure that they want to get home and do their homework.”
Each of the students also received a $750 scholarship for winning the contest, which was sponsored by the Ocean City police union, PBA Local 61, and the bicycle safety advocacy group Bike OCNJ.
“The number one thing that our public wants is more bike safety information,” Tom Heist, co-chairman of Bike OCNJ, said at the meeting. He said the group has promoted safe bicycling in Ocean City for about 15 years.
He told the Township Committee his organization is proud of the students, saying they did a fantastic job.
“Really, it comes down to reducing injury and even death,” he said. “Even though it seems like it’s just a video, it could be saving lives. We are so proud of them for taking the initiative.”
Also on Sept. 10, the committee honored local athletes who work with paraplegics at the township’s bayfront beach at Beesleys Point.
Bruckner Chase and his wife, Michelle Evans-Chase, founders of the Ocean City Swim Club, and Rebecca McGill, from the Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation, were recognized for their efforts through the Ocean City Swim Club and Blue Journey Unified.
“It’s something that I think we should all be proud of,” Palombo said. “It really is important that we recognize the great work that they’re doing to help people who have gone through very serious injuries.”
On summer days, the group takes people with spinal cord injuries on paddle boards into the calm water of the bay, where there won’t be any waves.
“By helping those with spinal cord injuries learn how to move through the water and by teaching and guiding weekly open-water prone paddleboarding and swimming sessions, the group is leaving the wheelchairs and physical limitations on the beach to explore the limitless opportunities on and in the water with fellow athletes,” said a statement from brucknerchase.com.
The paddle boards allow some participants to paddle on open water at an equal level with others without requiring special equipment, Palombo read from the resolution.
“These injuries forced them to spend so much time lying on their back or sitting upright. The prone paddle boarding activity increases flexibility, strength and endurance as well as enhancing their overall physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health,” Palombo read.
Volunteers work with the program, he said, including members of the Upper Township Rescue Squad and physical therapy professionals and students.
Palombo said his wife had recently broken her legs, which meant she had to use a wheelchair for a time this summer. He said that opened his eyes to the difficulties faced by people who use wheelchairs as well as their family members.
He said it was great to be able to recognize the volunteers. The program has been going on at the Beesleys Point beach for several years so far, Palombo said.
Chase said the program began on the bayside beach but has spread well beyond Upper Township.
In November, he said, they will launch two new programs in Queensland, Australia, and moves are underway for lifeguard agencies in Canada to begin a similar program.
“This all started because of the support we got from Upper Township,” he said, citing Beach Patrol Chief Bill Hanley and other lifeguards. “This is very much a global initiative now. Thanks for giving me a platform to start it.”