Submitted by Mike Chastain
The end of the school year signals the resumption of summer activities such as swimming, ball playing, and bicycle riding. All of the activities involve a chance of injury, but with proper instruction and equipment summer activities create life long memories.
To help build good safety habits, Winning Wheels representatives recently visited the PLT #3 Kindergarten classes to continue a long standing tradition of providing free bicycle helmets.
Winning Wheels got involved with local students in 1999, giving out the helmets, which was a key part of their newly formed Brain Injury Prevention Program. The center was looking of a way to give back to the community and at the same time, develop a program to promote brain injury prevention. Serving residents with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) was becoming a huge part of what the center were doing. As they evolved from a residence for younger physically challenged adults into a rehabilitation center for residents to thrive and possibly move into a more independent setting, the program was key in achieving one of their accreditations at the time.
Winning Wheel’s Mike Chastain came up with idea of a Bike Safety Rodeo. The event included a bike repair station, safety course, safety education, lots of food, fun, and prizes, and of course the bike helmets. This became a very anticipated annual event and was a good way for Winning Wheels and community groups and services to come together, as volunteers from the Police and Fire Departments, and many other local organizations became involved.
The first year, the program gave out close to 400 helmets. The helmets by design have adjustable padding and straps and are meant to grow with the child. Every Kindergarten thru 5th grader in the school district received a helmet and each year after that the Kindergarten class would receive helmets.
The Bike Rodeo ran for 16 years and had grown in size and cost. Unfortunately, after starting with a budget of $800 the event’s costs grew to $6,000. Each year the program was attended by well over 100 children and their families and had added a fun fair, bounce houses, and a BMX stunt show that centered on bike safety.
Four years ago, financial struggles and delayed payments from the state forced Winning Wheels to retire the Bike Rodeo. Fortunately, the group was able to maintain the Brain Injury Program and still provide helmets to the kids.
In 20 years, Winning Wheels has given out just over 1,800 helmets to the kids in the school district, which is quite an accomplishment considering the size of the community.
One kindergartner commented,”Your skull is hard, but if you fall you can crack your head.” The students were thrilled with their new helmets and many said they could not wait to get home and try them out.