EAST PROVIDENCE — It was last October when Robin Robinson, wife of five-time X Games' BMX gold medalist and Riverside native Kevin Robinson, received a phone call from Carousel Park Commission representative Tracy Johnson.
When Johnson explained she wanted to donate all proceeds from a two-hour block of carousel rides to the K-ROB Foundation, a non-profit organization which raises money to help East Providence youngsters remain active in sports, the Robinson family was floored — and thrilled.
“It's definitely an honor to be recognized,” noted the 39-year-old phenom while sipping on coffee at a Riverside brew house early Tuesday afternoon. “The carousel is a beloved, historical landmark, and the donation made me feel great. In my eyes, it solidified what we do within the foundation, and gave it a feeling of legitimacy, that what we do matters to people.
“When she told us, Robin and I thought, 'What a great opportunity!'” he added.
“We figured, if they were going to be that kind, then let's make a fun little day out of it. Never in a million years did I think it would grow into something this size.”
After much work by K-ROB Foundation Vice President Robin Robinson and fellow committee members, the Robinsons will present the first-ever “Ride with K-Rob/Family Fun Festival” on Saturday, May 21.
The four-mile trek — open to anyone who wants to bike, run, walk, skateboard or “scooter” — will begin at Pierce Field, 200 Mercer Street, at 10 a.m., Robinson himself leading the pack on his favorite 20-inch bicycle (with pal and X Games' skateboard competitor Nora Vascancellos).
And when attendees reach their destination, Rosa Larisa Park across the street from the Looff Carousel, all can bask in what Robinson calls “a family fun festival.”
(Most of the ride/run/walk will take place on the East Bay Bike Path. Registration fee is $10 per person or $20 for an entire family, and all who sign up will receive a free ticket to ride the carousel).
“I thought it would be great to have a couple of booths and a few vendors, but it's grown so much since the beginning of February,” Robinson offered. Now it's an event with 17 sponsors, about 60 vendors and other fun things. I'm really surprised.”
Highlighting the activities at Rose Larisa Park will be a mammoth raffle, with the top prize a trip for four to the X Games in Los Angeles, slated for July 28-31.
The trip, worth about $3,000, will include an $800 airline voucher; a four-pack of tickets to all BMX events; a prize pack filled with X Games' gear; a “behind-the-scenes” tour; a “Meet-and-Greet” with K-ROB and other athletes; a three-night hotel stay at the Sheraton Gateway in L.A.; and shuttle transportation to and from events.
Those raffle ducats will cost $20 each, and are currently available by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org . They also may be purchased at Larisa Park.
There will be plenty of other fun things to experience during the festival. The Robinsons have enlisted “Tony the Dancing Cop” to kick off the ride at Pierce Field; three E.P. bands to perform at the park, including “Some Weird Band,” “Kicking Hole” and “Fungus Amungus;” disc jockey Donnie Battle; and a “Family Football Skills Combine” hosted by – who else? – former Townies' and Boston College football great Jamie Silva, who now plays for the NFL's Indianapolis Colts.
“I have buddies in all three groups, and one of the members of 'Kicking Hole' is my pal, Bill Hurley, who's a bassist,” Robinson grinned. “He's been a huge help to the foundation, as he's been putting together the music side of it. We'll also have as a guest Louis Stravato from the Amazing Race.”
Athletic trainers from Punch Kettlebell Gym in Rumford will offer ropes classes, and a rock-climbing wall will be donated by the R.I. National Guard. There also will be karate demonstrations (by Lovett's Tae Kwon Do of Seekonk); gymnastics demos (by Aim High Academy of East Greenwich); and a chance to view the police department's BCI truck, not to mention the fire department's robot.
Booths galore also will be on hand, including those from Providence Coffee Roasters; Domino's Pizza; Haven Brothers' diner; the Little Red Schoolhouse Pre-School; etc. And, of course, the Carousel Clam Shack will be open for those desiring chowder, clam cakes, burgers and the like.
“The whole goal behind this is to get people to put down their computers, their cellphones, iPads and video game controls, come out and be active,” Robinson insisted. “In the beginning, Robin and I talked, and we weren't sure where the ride should start. Colt State Park? This whole thing actually started just as a ride, but then I thought I'd like to keep it in East Providence.
“We also figured a full ride from Bristol would be too lengthy for the younger kids; we want this to be open to children of all ages,” he continued. “The E.P. Parks & Rec has been tremendous working with us. They're letting us use the Larisa Park facilities, and allowing us to set up registration at Pierce Field (beginning at 8 a.m. at the stadium entrance).”
Robinson doesn't have in mind a target figure he hopes to raise, only to collect as much as possible to help city children stay involved with youth football, Little League baseball, karate classes, swim teams or lessons, etc.
“Compare this to me going to the X Games,” he said. “I don't go thinking I have to win gold. I go wanting to do the best I can and pull certain tricks. I want to try to push my own progressions, and – if I do that and work hard – maybe I'll be successful.
“I want the same thing for this festival,” he added. “This is about all families in Rhode Island, not just E.P. I want them to come out and have a good time with the family, get everyone together. This is like my own small version of the Heritage Festival, which is always E.P.'s biggest and greatest event.
“I want this to be healthy; it's about being outside and being active. The theme for this: We want everyone to show up wearing red-and-white, to show their support for E.P. and being a Townie. But this isn't just for Townies, but people from all cities around the state, and that includes Seekonk, Attleboro, Rehoboth, North Attleboro, whatever.
“It's about showing support for one another, no matter where you live. That's half the problem with society nowadays; we all need to learn more about working and playing together. I want to build a sense of 'neighborhood' as much as I want E.P. to come together as a community, and Rhode Island to come together as a state.”
The first 300 who register for the ride will receive a free T-shirt and wrist band, as well as a ticket to the carousel. “Tap-In” of East Providence will also issue a carousel ducat to anyone who brings a canned good.
T-shirts, courtesy of Castle Awards, will be on sale at the K-ROB Foundation booth. Gold medal sponsors include Center for Sports Medicine; and the family of David Niedzwiedz.
“David is a kid I taught how to ride BMX in 1999,” Robinson said solemnly. “He was killed in a car accident in Newport on March 15, 2005. He was only 17. He's a dear friend of mine, and his mantra was 'Live Life to the Fullest.' It was his dad's idea to sponsor David, and I embraced it for this festival. He donated money from his last few paychecks, and I'm so thankful.”
Robin Robinson mentioned that, regardless of the amount of work it's taken to piece this together, “it's been so worthwhile.
“We've received overwhelming support,” she said. “Just to see the joy this is bringing to all of the people who've been involved has been amazing. We've currently given back $15,000 to E.P. youths who want to stay active in E.P. athletics, those whose families may not be able to afford it.”
Stated Robinson the athlete: “It's insane. It's crazy, how big this is going to be. I don't have to do this, but — like everything — you start with an idea, turn it into a dream, then just work hard to make that dream a reality. That's why my mantra is 'Dream you life; Live your dream.'
“All we have to do now is pray for good weather.”
For more information, call (401) 289-0267, or visit www.krobfoundation.org . To register for the Jamie Silva Family Football Skills Combine, visit www.jamiesilva.com .