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BMX pros flip for anti-smoking campaign at Copiague high school

BMX rider Jimmy Walker, of Chicago, performs a

BMX rider Jimmy Walker, of Chicago, performs a trick during the Tobacco-Free Kids Campaign at Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School. (April 24, 2012) Photo Credit: Brittany Wait

They flipped. They whipped. They jumped. Sometimes they did it without using their hands.

On the second stop of a five-day tour of Long Island schools, a team of professional BMX freestyle bikers wowed students at Walter G. O’Connell Copiague High School while teaching them about the dangers of smoking.

With the potential for rain in the forecast, the group took the show indoors, but still got the students’ attention with box jumps, 360s, no-handers, no-footers, backflips and tailwhips.

“The biggest point of our show is to remind kids that tobacco is bad because, even though everybody knows it, I travel around the country constantly and there’s still people smoking,” said John Parker, one of the performers in the show. “Even nowadays, when everyone knows how bad it is for you.”

The Tobacco-Free Kids campaign, put on by ASA Entertainment and now in its 12th year, visits one school a day for 10 to 15 weeks per year, educating 10,000-15,000 kids each week about the consequences of drug use, Parker said.

After the performance, Mark Brunjes, 17, a junior at the high school, rushed over with his friends to get the performers’ autographs.

As a member of the school’s skateboarding club, he said he enjoyed the combination of tricks and inspirational message.

“I’ve been skating for the past three years,” he said. “It really got to me that if you’re dedicated to something, you’ll go out and do it, and no matter how many times you fall, you’ll get back up and you’ll keep doing it.”

Olivia Bubb, 18, a senior at the high school, said she took away from the event that students could take up extracurriculars instead of turning to drugs or tobacco.

“Whatever you enjoy doing you can replace doing drugs with that,” she said. “My peers, a lot of them smoke or do drugs. A lot of them don’t know the facts about the drugs, so that’s why they do it.”

In addition to Parker, who’s from Phoenix, Ariz., performers included Mike Payne, of Las Vegas; Trevor Meyer, of St. Park, Minn.; Matt Lindenmuth, of Kutztown, Pa.; and Jimmy Walker, of Chicago.

The crew will be at Great Neck South High School on Wednesday, West Hempstead High School on Thursday and Sayville High School on Friday. Then the members head to Connecticut.

“As athletes, none of us smoke, none of us use drugs. We take pretty good care of our bodies,” Parker said. “I’ve been riding for 23 years and I feel pretty healthy still thanks to living a clean lifestyle. Something like this seems like such an obvious cause to get behind because it is a bad product. We like to substitute biking, riding or inline skating for anything like that.”

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