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By JULIE CHURCH
© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001
When David Schmitt started as principal of Oldsmar Elementary School in 1995, he was able to fulfill a dream he had had since he first became a teacher: He started a unicycle club.
Schmitt, 47, learned to ride a unicycle as a child one winter in his basement in Cincinnati and has been riding ever since. He had always used his unicycle to entertain children or reward them for good behavior, but the club gives him an opportunity to share his skills with students and to bond with them at the same time.
"I've had parents tell me it's helped their child with self-esteem and also helped them to set goals," Schmitt said.
The Oldsmar Unicycle Club, which meets biweekly, averages between 12 and 20 kids each year. Students buy their own unicycles, but Schmitt helps them develop their riding skills.
"Some kids learn in a matter of days and with other kids it takes months," he said. "I challenge them to go one foot further each time they ride."
The club participates in two parades each year, the Safety Harbor Christmas Parade and the Oldsmar Days Parade. Students wear Unicycle Club T-shirts and perform tricks along the parade route.
Paula Ringlespaugh is the club's parent coordinator. Her son, Jarrett, 8, is one of the youngest in the group. He started riding his unicycle in first grade.
"Mr. Schmitt made him a bet," she said. "If he learned how to ride the unicycle, he'd buy him one."
Schmitt made good on his promise last year.
Although the majority of the kids in the group are Oldsmar Elementary School students, there are kids who have gone on to middle school who still participate, and the club is open to anyone.
Nick Hove, 12, started riding a unicycle last year. He said it was one of the best things he has ever done.
"It's really cool to hang out with friends who share the same interest," he said. "Not everyone can ride a unicycle."
Nick, who is in sixth grade at Safety Harbor Middle School, said the kids really enjoy learning from Schmitt as well.
"It's really cool when you can hang out with your principal and he is a really neat guy," he said.
For information on the Unicycle Club, call Schmitt at (813) 855-7316.
More than 550 runners are expected Saturday at the 19th annual Armadillo Run in Oldsmar.
The 1-mile event begins at 7:40 a.m., and the 5K and 10K races begin at 8 a.m. at the corner of State and Fairfield streets.
The run is the biggest fundraising event of the year for the Oldsmar/East Lake Rotary Club. Proceeds fund scholarships, Little League programs in Oldsmar and East Lake and the honoring of students of the month at local elementary schools.
"For a little club, we raise as much money as some of the bigger clubs in the district," race chairman Dick Petticrew said.
Registration is $20 for the 5K and 10K races and $10 for the 1-mile race. Race day registration will be in the SouthTrust Bank parking lot at the start of the race. Participants receive a T-shirt and refreshments at the conclusion of the races.
The race course is certified, so participants are able use their times to qualify for other races, Petticrew said.
Prizes are awarded in several different age groups.
For information, call (813) 855-5779.
A reception to honor outgoing City Council members Mayor Jeff Sandler, Vice Mayor Ed Manny and Councilman Ed Richards and to welcome new Mayor Jerry Beverland and council members Marcelo Caruso and Don Bohr will be held 6 p.m. Tuesday in the City Council Chambers, 100 State St. Light hors d'oeuvres will be served. The event is open to the public.
The Forest Lakes Elementary School media center is now open to the public Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:15 to 7 p.m.
On Tuesday evenings, presentations will be held on topics relating to reading. On Thursdays at 6:30 p.m., story time will be offered.
For information, call (813) 891-0785.
The monthly meeting of the Top of the Bay Garden Club will be at 7 p.m. Monday at the Oldsmar Art Centre, 402 St. Petersburg Drive.
Members are asked to bring plants and books on gardening to sell to benefit the Friends of the Botanical Gardens.
The meetings are open to the public. For more information, call (813) 855-4070.
Bruce Shedwick, reptile curator at Cypress Gardens, will present his Reptile Discovery Program at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Forest Lakes Elementary School cafeteria.
Shedwick will introduce the four reptile groups and show examples of each.
The event is sponsored by the Forest Lakes PTA and is open to the public. For more information, call Sarah Thorne at (727) 771-1942.
Friends of the Oldsmar Library will hold its spring book sale on Saturday at the library, 101 State St.
Books, videos, puzzles and magazines for both children and adults will be on sale. A special of $5 for a bag full of books will also be offered.
Library hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (813) 855-5940.
- If you have news or photos about Oldsmar schools, churches, businesses, neighborhood groups, community organizations or people, contact Julie Church at the North Pinellas Times. You can call her at (727) 445-4229, e-mail material to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or mail material to North Pinellas Times, 34342 U.S. 19 N, Palm Harbor, FL 34684.