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On the right PATH

Updated: 
April 4, 2014 - 12:05am

Since 1986, Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii has been a driving force toward helping “safely connect the people and places on Hawaii Island with pathways and bikeways.” The nonprofit organization has flourished in recent years through an incredibly passionate team, and now with a new addition to the group, the future looks even brighter.

On Monday, Shirley Pratt became the new program director for PATH’s safety and education programs. It is a position that Pratt describes as “her dream job,” and one that will offer her the perfect venue to give back to the community she and her husband, Dave, love.

“Dave and I first visited the Big Island in 1993 and I knew back then that this was going to be home for us some day,” Pratt said. “For me, I instantly fell in love with the culture, the people and the weather. Being from the San Francisco Bay area, it amazed me how it truly felt like home. I didn’t feel like a visitor and people didn’t think that I was one.”

The Pratts visited the Big Island three more times before deciding to purchase a place in Kona. Their big move came in 2011 after each turned 50 — a birthday gift to themselves. Since then, Pratt’s name and face has been linked to just about every swimming, biking and running event in town — both as a volunteer and a participant.

“I got into volunteering here after I blew out my Achilles tendon,” said Pratt, an avid endurance athlete with more than 60 marathon finishes and numerous multisport completions under his belt. “I couldn’t participate in the activities that I wanted to so I thought I could help out where I was needed.”

Before she knew it, Pratt was volunteering her services at practically every multisport event in town. From Team Mango races and Peaman events, Ironman and Lavaman triathlons, to local running, swimming and cycling races, Pratt became the “go to” person, filling a much-needed void.

If that didn’t keep her busy enough, Pratt also organized activities and initiated group rides for the Coffee Talk Riders — a popular social cycling group, helped judge Lego Robotics competitions, worked part time as a computer consultant for several area businesses, and taught bike education classes for PATH.

Pratt and her “can do” attitude became known amongst the athletic community she has so much “aloha” for.

When the program director position became vacant, Pratt jumped at the opportunity.

“My first thought was, who did I know could take over so the classes and activities I was involved with would continue uninterrupted?” Pratt said. “I really wanted to see PATH grow more and I had some ideas on how I could help. So in the end, I asked Tina to be considered for the position and am ecstatic to have been selected.”

Pratt will be working alongside Tina Clothier, PATH’s Executive Director of the nonprofit organization.

“I was so excited to hear that she was interested,” Clothier said. “I’ve been impressed with her organizational skills, level of energy and her deep knowledge of our Bike Ed program at the elementary and adult levels. And she just knew exactly what needed to be done. She was the perfect fit.”

Although Pratt will be spearheading several sub-programs, such as Pedestrian Education for first- through third-graders, Bike Rodeo events for preschoolers through 18-year-olds, and Adult Bike Education classes, her main priority will be to expand the Bike Education Program for Hawaii Island’s fourth-graders.

“The reason we start at the fourth-grade level is that cognitively they can learn the material, physically they can handle riding the bike, and we feel it’s the best age to teach such important skills,” Clothier said.

Clothier added that with the support and sponsorship from the County of Hawaii, Kaiser Permanente, and Kona Community Hospital, PATH may reach its goal to teach basic cycling and safety skills to every fourth-grader on the Big Island.

“We are thrilled with our partnership with Kona Hospital,” Clothier said. “In 2013, Kona Hospital’s Trauma Program, whose goal is to decrease the number of brain trauma related accidents, purchased 1,200 helmets so that each (fourth-grade) child participating in the Bike Ed program could receive their own helmet.”

Hawaii state law requires all children younger than 16 to wear a helmet while riding a bicycle.

Pratt will also be involved with growing PATH’s membership and partnership program, and helping PATH stay at the forefront in the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy movement by staying abreast of current trends and best practices in those areas.

And if you think Pratt is already working off a full plate, think again. On July 27, Pratt and her husband will compete at the Subaru Ironman Canada in Whistler, British Columbia.

“It’ll be a juggling act to train for an Ironman while working for PATH and doing the other things I do, but I like staying busy,” she said. “What I love most is all the friendships I’ve made while training, racing and volunteering. They make it fun to go out and put in the time and miles. They motivate me to participate in races and want to give back.”

For more information on PATH’s bicycle and pedestrian education programs visit pathawaii.org, or email sharetheroad@pathhawaii.org.

COMING UP

Saturday: The inaugural Hawaii Century Ride, a fundraiser for North Hawaii Hospice, begins and ends at Spencer Beach Park in Kawaihae. Featured events include the Century (112 miles) that starts at 6:30 a.m., Metric (62 miles) at 7:30, and Short (31 miles) at 8. There will be a barbecue after the races. For more information, visit hawaiicyclingclub.com.

April 12: The Hawaii Cycling Club presents the second annual Team Training Time Trial. Start time for the 16.7-mile event is 8 a.m. at the Highway 19 sign south of Waikoloa Beach Road. Registration will be from 7 to 7:40 a.m. outside of Bike Works Beach & Sports at the Queens’ MarketPlace in Waikoloa. For more information, visit hawaiicyclingclub.com.