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Sparks Fly raises money to bring bikes into classrooms

Luke MacDonald, who named the bike program Sparks Fly, has raised $55,000 so far.

The donor: Luke MacDonald

The gift: Raising $55,000 and climbing

The cause: 600 stationary bikes in schools

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Luke MacDonald has spent years helping to get children active and encouraging them to read.

His approach took a twist seven years ago after he heard a lecture by York University professor Stuart Shanker concerning self-regulation, the ability to stay calmly focused and alert.

Prof. Shanker explained how deep breathing, such as the kind that happens on a stationary bike, helps restless children self-regulate.

Mr. MacDonald, who co-owns the Aerobics First sporting goods store in Halifax, was intrigued and immediately began a campaign to raise money to buy bikes for local schools. Now, when children are bored or acting out, they aren't punished or shunned, they spend time pedalling on a bike at the back of the classroom.

Today, there are more than 600 bikes in schools throughout the city, thanks to $55,000 raised by Mr. MacDonald, and more than 2,000 across Canada thanks to a non-profit group called Run for Life.

Mr. MacDonald, 52, volunteers with Run for Life and he has dubbed the bike program Sparks Fly.

"It's been an interesting journey to watch," he said.

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"The repercussions have been astoundingly cool. It's just something that's working."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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About the Author
European Correspondent

Paul Waldie has been an award-winning journalist with The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years. He has won three National Newspaper Awards for business coverage and been nominated for a Michener Award for meritorious public service journalism. He has also won a Sports Media Canada award for sports writing and authored a best-selling biography of the McCain family. More

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