Program gives kids chance to exercise minds and bodies



Books for Bikes Baynet

LEXINGTON PARK, MD -- Four Lexington Park Elementary School (LPES) students were selected to win a new specialized HotRock mountain bike from the Freemasons of the Thomas J. Shryock Lodge.

First  grader Nicholas Osborne, second grader Jurnee Milburn, and third graders Azariah Rivers and Jordyn McDevitt won the bikes through a raffle, said Evelyn Sweeney, Instructional Resource teacher at LPES.

Certificates for the bikes were given to the students at the conclusion of the 2015-2016 Books for Bikes program May 9 and 12, said Colin Boynton, director of the Books for Bikes program. 

“They will also be getting their own helmet with the new bike, which they can get fitted to them and get the color they want,” said Boynton. “The bicycles to be awarded to the children will be ordered from and fitted to the awardee by the staff of the Patuxent Adventure Center. Additionally the Patuxent Adventure Center will honor its standard free service program to the recipients.”

Since October of last year, the faculty of LPES has tracked the reading performed by students. The amount of reading each student performed during the year determined their probability of winning a bike in the drawing at the end of the year, said Boynton.

“In addition to the support of the Lodge, this exciting program has been sponsored by generous contributions of the Pax Velo cycling club, the Patuxent Adventure Center, Holmes Tucker International and Avian LLC,” said Boynton.

This year’s program is the first undertaken by the Lodge and while it currently involves a single school, the intent is to grow to eventually encompass the St. Mary’s County Public School System if charitable fundraising will support, said Boynton.

Boynton credits his involvement with the Books for Bikes program to his daughter.

“She was a student at Evergreen Elementary until she was selected for the STEM program for 4th and 5th grades located at Lexington Park Elementary. My exposure to Lexington Park Elementary made two impressions on me, the faculty was superb, and a lot of the students were reportedly from families struggling financially to get by,” said Boynton. “The combination of a motivated and resourceful faculty with quite a few students whose families can't afford to get them really nice bikes made Lexington Park Elementary a fairly easy choice as the first school to try out our new initiative.”

The former Master of our Lodge Patrick Murphy had the original idea to start the program, said Boynton.

“He was inspired by a similar program his brother's Masonic Lodge in Maine was very successful with. Being an avid mountain biker I readily agreed to try to institute a similar program here in Southern Maryland.,” said Boynton. “However, rather than offering a larger number of lower quality department store bikes I envisioned offering up truly high quality bikes which would last for the winners as well as their younger siblings and be a treasured possession and really encourage them to spend a lot of time riding it.”

Encouraging children to read and exercise is important, said Boynton.

“While I can only speak for how I encourage it with my children, after getting ready for bed, they’ll spend 30 minutes to an hour reading in bed before lights out. I bike with my kids pretty routinely when the weather is nice, and we also make sure to kick them out of the house to go play outside when the weather is nice,” said Boynton. “In both cases this has resulted in actual interest on the part of my kids.  They enjoy reading books and take pride in finishing a book and starting a new one. They want to go outside and play whenever they can.”

As a parent in an age of electronic entertainment, it is easy to let children sit in front of a screen constantly, said Boynton.

“The same goes for adults too in all fairness, and while some of this exercises their mind it certainly doesn't exercise their body. I think there is a great deal of value in developing one's imagination and cognitive processes. When you watch a movie, you view a story through the lens of someone else's imagination. When reading it, you view it through your own,” said Boynton. “Developing a habit of physical and mental exercise in children seems the surest way to attack widespread health issues and encourage intellectual curiosity.”

Given the right amount of funding, the lodge hopes to increase the scope of Books for Bikes to eventually encompass all of St. Mary's County, said Boynton.

“We needed a starting point and for the reasons listed above, Lexington Park Elementary seemed to make sense to start out,” said Boynton. “Interested potential sponsors can contact us via message on the Thomas J. Shryock Lodge Facebook page.”

For more information about the Books for Bikes program, contact Colin Boynton at

Jacqui Atkielski can be contacted via email at

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