All the elementary schools in the eight-county southwest North Dakota region competed in the 2021 Bike Safety Coloring and Poster Contest, and two of the grand prize winners were from Dickinson.

Hosted by the Southwest Area Safety Association, the poster grand prize winner was Vanessa Mertz, a fifth grader from Prairie Rose Elementary, with her artwork depicting a colorful bike with biking safety messages. The grand prize for the coloring contest was Maya Dukart, a first grader from Trinity Elementary West, with her art piece of a brightly colored picture of a bicycle rider wearing a helmet showing the importance of safety.

Dickinson Police Officer Chris Sanders helps Maya Dukart adjust her new helmet at Walmart Friday, April 30, 2021. Dukart was one of the winners of the 2021 Bike Safety Coloring and Poster Contest and received a new bike and helmet from the Southwest Area Safety Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)
Dickinson Police Officer Chris Sanders helps Maya Dukart adjust her new helmet at Walmart Friday, April 30, 2021. Dukart was one of the winners of the 2021 Bike Safety Coloring and Poster Contest and received a new bike and helmet from the Southwest Area Safety Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

“We were interested in making sure that children understood the importance of bike safety. And so, we’re promoting bike safety so that with the upcoming summer (and) biking season that they would be more aware of using helmets and not riding in the street and things like that,” SASA Secretary Treasurer Kari Shea said.

Kari Raab from Trinity Elementary West and Linidsay Holznagal from Prairie Rose Elementary — teachers of the grand prize winners — also received a check for $100 as an additional incentive for teachers to participate in the contest, Shea said. Each school in the region, including those in home schools, participated in the competition and chose a winner for the poster contest that was open to third and fifth grades and a winner from the coloring contest — which was open from grades kindergarten to second. From there, each school winner was submitted for the overall grand prize selection in each category and each school winner received $25.

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“I think sometimes people forget that safety is 24/7 commitment. And if we can start young with children being very aware of even safety in the biking world, then hopefully they will carry that through to their homes and into adulthood and into work safety,” Shea said.

For Dickinson elementary schools, the individual coloring and poster school winners were: Christian Kenitzer (home school); Leah Arndt (Berg Elementary School); Landon Groll, Amelia Kuntz (Jefferson Elementary School); Sawyer Reile (Lincoln Elementary School); Panacea Gyabonyor, Mertz (Prairie Rose Elementary); Londyn Hamilton (Roosevelt Elementary School); Paityn Buresh (South Heart); Brdgette Heupel (Trinity East Elementary); and Dukart (Trinity West Elementary).

For other surrounding elementary schools, the individual coloring and poster school winners included: Elias Ross; Rosie Muruata (Beach); Megan Brosz, Vedder Swanson (Bowman); Oliver Zook, Cole Zachman (Golva); Shahkohe Spotted Bear, Brianna Olson (Halliday); Jaliya Pridgen, Katya LaPierre (Killdeer); Gabriella Bautz (New England); Danica Iverson (Fairfield); Raelynn Gullickson, Tanya Goetz (Taylor); and Erin Doe, Emily Grist (Mott/Regent).

Fifth grader Vanessa Mertz poses with Dickinson Police Officer Chris Sanders at Walmart, Friday, April 30, 2021, showing off her new helmet and bike she received from the Southwest Area Safety Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)
Fifth grader Vanessa Mertz poses with Dickinson Police Officer Chris Sanders at Walmart, Friday, April 30, 2021, showing off her new helmet and bike she received from the Southwest Area Safety Association. (Jackie Jahfetson/The Dickinson Press)

Mertz and Dukart shopped with Dickinson Police Officer Chris Sanders to select out a new bike and helmet at Walmart Friday, April 30, an opportunity provided by SASA. Sanders noted that with summer rolling around the corner, there will be more children riding their bikes and it’s important to start bike safety at an early age.

“I love the whole thing. I think it’s super cool that we’re out here promoting bike safety by not only getting kids on a new bike that they can be proud of, but also teaching that wearing a helmet is cool. Because it’s such an easy thing to do — wear a helmet,” Sanders said. “... It could save your life.”

The SASA is a group of safety professionals in southwestern North Dakota, who meet monthly to promote safety in work, home and community. For more information, visit the SASA Facebook page.

“I think we want to include them because they promote safety and biking also. And we want kids to understand that policemen are there to be their friends and to help them in dangerous situations and to keep them safe,” Shea added.