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  • Tohono O’odham take the lead on health and bicycling collaboration

    Jun 19, 2019 | Read More News
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    This spring, four health educators from the Tohono O’odham Healthy O’odham Promotion Program (HOPP) became the first Native Americans in Arizona to become League Certified Instructors through the League of American Bicyclists (LAB).

    The Pima County Health Department REACH grant sponsored the 11-person LCI class. The 18- hour training enables instructors to lean on the liability and legal backing of the LAB as they teach bicycle safety to their respective communities. The LCI status empowers community members to teach bike safety curriculum in their own way with more confidences and with a greater sense of equity and diversity, said Elaine Mariolle, program coordinator for Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety in the Pima County Health Department.
    Some of the LCI training topics were put to use as the Tohono O’odham team produced their 3rd annual El Tour de Rez on May 18. Sylvia Cruz, a health educator at the Hikiwan District, coordinated the 27-mile bike ride, which traveled through several communities in the district. The event drew 53 participants: 47 individual riders (including 16 members of the Pascua Yaqui riders for the El Tour de Tucson Against Diabetes team) and three, 2-person teams (an increase from 2018). All but two bicyclists completed the ride; and the two that didn’t finish said they had a great time and that they’d be back next year.

    “As coordinator of this year's event, I wanted to make this year's event all about wellness, fun and team work,” said Cruz. “We have so many of our O'odham suffer from Type II diabetes, heart disease, and cancers.”

    Cruz said the ride served as a follow-up to a 10-mile Relay Walk for Diabetes held in September 2018 we did. 

    “On behalf of HOPP and the Hikiwan District, we were very appreciative of all the people that came out to participate and all the support we had from our Community Health Representatives, Tohono O'odham Police Department and Ranger Program, Samuel Saunders Catering, Hikiwan District Staff, Hikiwan Recreation staff and all the HOPP staff who took a role in the set up and tear down of the event,” Cruz said. She went on to thank all who helped fix flats and made minor mechanical repairs as well as Wheels for Kids for the donation of bikes. “This allowed us to supply bikes for people who did not have a bike and for some who had break downs on their journey.”

     Our Creator gave us great weather and it was so awesome. We most certainly will be planning for next year's event; not sure where we will be traveling to next but we will take what we learned from this event and make it just as fun as we had on Saturday, thank you again to all those that helped make this event a success, Many blessing to you all, be safe on the road and will see you all at the next event.”

    The Tohono O’odham team of LCIs are looking forward to planning another ride next year and to using their skills to teach bicycle safety to youth and adults at their respective HOPP centers and local schools. “I plan to start a youth and adult cycling program in my area,” said Cruz. “I would also like to look into starting a bike program at San Simon School (serving grade K to 8.)” 

    The other three members of the new LCI team include Deirdra Edaakie, Joshua Garcia and Marlinda Francisco. They have similar plans for bicycle skills and safety programs for adults and/or youth in the San Xavier, Pisinemo and Sells communities.

    “I believe the LCI program will give our youth a great benefit in leadership, teamwork, being active and most importantly their health,” said Mariano Francisco, HOPP program coordinator. “All goes the same for the staff taking on this task; everything starts with them to lead our youth.”