Archive for Thursday, August 4, 2005

Kids get head start on bike safety

County looks to free helmets to spur lifetime use early

August 4, 2005

Eudora kids are becoming hardheaded, and Eudora Township firefighter Sue Coleman likes it that way.

Coleman, with help from the Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical, and SafeKids, a child safety organization, provided free fitted bike helmets to more than 25 kids last Thursday evening.

"One thing I want people to know is that these are really nice helmets," Coleman said. "They are really safe helmets."

Children filled the Eudora Township fire department in a flurry of brightly colored plastic. Some played games on a chalkboard off to the side while others waited in line in order to get a perfect fit.

Although Thursday was the first time this sort of specific helmet event had taken place in Eudora, it's nothing new to Douglas County. It's even been in Eudora before, though on a much smaller scale, in conjunction with EudoraFest.

The program is growing here but has been thriving in Lawrence since 1996.

Lawrence-Douglas County Fire and Medical Operations Division Chief Rob Kort started the program when he received $300 from the Children's Miracle Network. Because $300 wasn't enough to purchase major equipment, he decided to use the money to buy 90 bicycle helmets for the local kids.

The helmets went fast.

With initial success and sponsorship, the program has blossomed. Nearly a decade after Kort's initial order of 90 helmets, the total has skyrocketed into orders of more than 2,500 helmets a year. Because of the bulk of the order, the manufacturer runs custom colors of the helmet for Kort like bright pink.

Last week 50 of them, including the bright pink ones came to Eudora.

"It's just about teaching a child a safe way of life," Coleman said.

If a child grows up wearing a helmet, then he or she would continue to wear a helmet, Coleman said.

The idea for the local event came when Coleman saw a skateboarder in town riding around without protection.

That incident spurred Coleman to inquire about bringing the helmets back to Eudora. She contacted Kort and arranged to have a table during the CPA Picnic to sign up kids. She collected more than 40 signatures.

A week after the picnic, the helmets arrived.

"To give away 25 helmets in a small community like this, it's a big day," Kort said.

Kort came down with his wife and daughter to help make the fittings go more smoothly.

John Drees, who instructs safety courses for 4Kids also came to lend a hand.

Drees noticed the level of community involvement with the helmets.

"In a lot of places you don't get this kind of cooperation," Drees said. "That's cool."

Coleman looks to have this event grow in Eudora like it has in Lawrence, and she might be on the right track.

"What Sue did is the perfect way for the community to get involved," Kort said.

Jeff Maloney's son Ryan was one child who was fitted for a helmet.

"I think it's a good idea," Maloney said.

Because of the sponsor's support, the helmets were provided to the kids free of charge, although Coleman and the rest of the safety personnel asked one thing of every child who received a helmet -- a promise to use it.

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