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Tuesday, Aug 24, 2010

Berkshire Farm Center Hosts Minibike “Rodeo” for At-Risk Youth

Three-day event was part of National Youth Project Using Minibikes (NYPUM)

For more information, contact Keith Toomey 518-781-4567 ext. 2542 or via email.

Canaan, NY – August 24, 2010 – More than 100 students from northeastern U.S. gathered at Berkshire Farm Center’s Residential Treatment Center campus in Canaan, New York for the 34th East NYPUM Rodeo, a three-day event filled with healthy competition and fun. The Rodeo was part of the National Youth Project Using Minibikes (NYPUM), and is being called a huge success. NYPUM officials say they plan to hold future Rodeos at Berkshire Farm Center.

Founded in 1969 by American Honda Motor Company as a way to promote the positive development of at-risk youth, NYPUM began with 10,000 minibikes donated by the manufacturer. The program provides at-risk youth of America an opportunity to develop self-esteem, strong values and a sense of responsibility using the minibike as a motivational tool. Participants work with their parents or guardians and a Certified NYPUM Instructor to create their own Success Plans—agreements that identify goals and targets challenges that are relevant to each participant. Through the use of minibikes, youths participate in challenging and fun activities with peers and positive adult role models. NYPUM operates more than 50 programs in communities from Los Angeles to Boston.

Berkshire Farm Center’s NYPUM program began in 2009. Adolescent males who live and attend school at Berkshire’s Residential Treatment Center participate. For some of these youth, NYPUM has been life-changing. Gerry Hinman is Berkshire’s Coordinator of Therapeutic Recreation programming as well as the Coordinator for the “BEST” Grant, which funds Berkshire’s NYPUM program. Hinman said the youth participating in the NYPUM program there have shown remarkable success, and the Rodeo was a great boost to the program. “We got off to a great start with three days of wonderful weather and camaraderie,” said Hinman. “The sense of community established with the youth, instructors, counselors, and NYPUM officials helped cement what I’m sure will be a long-term relationship.”

Ken Hutchinson, National NYPUM Director, agrees, saying the event went very well at Berkshire Farm Center. “I really believe that we have found a spectacular site and partnership for hosting the Rodeo for many years to come!” said Hutchinson. “During the Rodeo I heard many comments from both kids and adults about ‘what a great place this is.’ Berkshire Farm clearly has the resources and space available to allow this Rodeo to grow in the future.”

Working with Hutchinson was Mark Speller, NYPUM Director of Program Development and Operations. “Kids in NYPUM programs work really hard to prepare for the Rodeo, and being able to attend such a great event gives them a great sense of pride and accomplishment,” Speller said.

“When we explored the possibility of having a NYPUM program here at Berkshire Farm Center, we quickly realized the positive impact such a program could have on our youth,” said Tim Giacchetta, Berkshire’s CEO. “Our program is already showing tremendous benefits, with our students discovering new ways to work toward their own treatment goals and learning to make better decisions in their lives.” Giacchetta added that these benefits are showing up in school performance, behaviors, and attitudes.

The youth from Berkshire Farm Center deserve a lot of credit, according to John Merrills, Supervisor of Recreation at Berkshire. The boys participating in NYPUM must earn their way into the program through their behavior, attitude, and performance in school. “They worked very hard to get ready for this Rodeo and have shown a tremendous level of commitment to the NYPUM program,” said Merrills. “They should be very proud of their accomplishments…I certainly am proud of them.” Merrills pointed out that in addition to being recognized for their riding ability, they were recognized for their sportsmanship.

The team from Berkshire Farm Center received the Sportsmanship Trophy, which is awarded through a vote by all of the youth from all programs participating at the rodeo. The trophy will remain at Berkshire Farm Center until next year’s rodeo. After the award was presented, Jay Springer, Berkshire’s Vice President for Residential Services congratulated the boys and told them they were now part of Berkshire Farm Center’s long legacy of excellence. “I wanted these young men to know that they made history here,” said Springer. “They are part of the first NYPUM Rodeo held on our campus, and they earned what we consider is the best prize of all…recognition for their sportsmanship, which we value highly here. We’re very proud of them!”

Jeremy Austin, the Adventure Based Counseling Coordinator at Berkshire’s Residential Treatment Center, explained how involved the boys were. “Berkshire Farm Center was represented by eight certified NYPUM riders who displayed positive behaviors throughout the event. They showcased their skills with the other riders from the other programs,” Austin said. “They also acted as hosts throughout the three days and even helped with the food serving line on the first day!” He added that the young men all experienced a strong sense of pride in their accomplishments.

NYPUM Rodeos are a great way to reward youth for their achievements at school and with their treatment goals. Youth who show exceptional improvement through the program are invited to attend these Rodeos, which include overnight camping, free time, and competitive challenges using the minibikes. Events at the East NYPUM Rodeo included range trials, barrel races, haystack races, slow races, and skills trials. Competitions were held on Berkshire’s special track and on trails that wind through the mountain at the campus. NYPUM's minibike riding curriculum follows guidelines set by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).

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