GENOA – Dozens of tikes took to their trikes to cross the finish line in Walnut Street Daycare Center’s annual Trike-A-Thon fundraiser, a philanthropic event that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The Genoa day care raised $6,035 for the hospital during its event Sept. 16. Since its inception eight years ago, the event has raised more than $43,000, said Kristen Tatroe, Walnut Street Daycare Center’s lead preschool teacher.
“Honestly, I just love how excited the kids get that they’re actually doing something for other children, too,” Tatroe said.
Tatroe, who’s known as Mrs. Kristen by her students, said the preschoolers understand they’re raising money for a charity. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will send the day care information about children who benefit from the money raised. Tatroe said she takes that material and uses it to get “the children to understand that some kids don’t live at home and they live at St. Jude’s, and that we help them so their families never receive a bill.”
“I show them right away because how are they going to get excited or understand why we’re doing something if they don’t understand why we’re doing it?” Tatroe said. “So getting them to differentiate, like a cough is very different than a child who has cancer and can’t go home.”
“Like, they’ll tell you ‘We ride our bikes to school’ Why? ‘To get money for the sick kids.’ They’ll say that,” Tatroe said.
The preschool uses the fundraiser as a tool to not only teach children the basics of philanthropy but safe bicycle practices as well. That lesson is something Rachel Engel, director and co-owner of Walnut Street Daycare Center, said “is so important.”
“That’s one reason why the Trike-A-Thon is so great is we do use the whole week as a lesson on bike safety,” Engel said. “Each day has a different lesson and hopefully once you instill it in them at this age, it stays with them as they move into that school age and they start riding their bikes to school or out with their friends, you just hope that it sticks with them.”
To impart that lesson, the day care enlists the help of Sgt. Misty Odom of the DeKalb County County Sheriff’s Office. Odom completed an overnight shift before attending the Trike-A-Thon at 10 a.m.
“Always wear your helmet, don’t ride your bike in the street, watch out for cars and driveways, and always watch where you’re going,” Odom said.
Odom and Tatroe have been friends since childhood. Tatroe even taught Odom’s children when they were in preschool. During that era, Odom was asked to review bicycle safety for Walnut Street Daycare Center’s first Trike-A-Thon. Every year since, Odom has helped the center with the fundraiser, something she said she finds “really, really exciting.”
“I mean, it’s just heartwarming because there’s not a lot of people here, there’s not a lot of kids but they raise an extraordinary amount of money every single year,” Odom said. “It’s just little people doing big things and kids helping kids.”
Odom called the Trike-A-Thon – which features more than two dozen children riding around the day care parking lot – fun, organized chaos. She said the fundraiser also teaches preschoolers something beyond bike safety.
“I think the most important lesson is that the school, or the day care here, is teaching them at such a young age to help people and help each other,” Odom said. “And to me I think that means the world because you know, then hopefully that’s instilled in them from a very young age and it stays with them.”