Safe Kids delivers helmets

Feb. 18, 2014 @ 05:05 AM

Safe Kids Rutherford County will provide over 700 third-grade students with bicycle helmets this year. The organization gives out helmets every year to create safety awareness.

Wilbur Burgin, a retired Navy captain, started the program in Rutherford County when he got the idea after reading a newspaper article talking about a similar program in California. Safe Kids Coordinator Chris Burley took over in 2002. The goal is to provide all third grade students in the county with a bicycle helmet.

"He (Burgin) had started doing it with some of the PTO groups but he didn't have the ability to get as much money as I did by writing grants. So one school would get helmets each year," Burley said. "We just took his idea and spread it across the county."

Burley said the group decided to give the helmets out to third-grade students for several reasons. He said one reason is they are starting to get their training wheels off of their bikes. He also said they are still impressionable and will listen when someone tells them to wear a helmet.

"Also their head size, believe it or not, the growth starts to slow down so a lot of them will be able to wear that helmet for a number of years," Burley said. "There are several different factors and at the time we started this, we really did some research and tried to take all of that into account so the kids would get the biggest impact."

Safe Kids will deliver helmets to every school in the county and Burley hopes that the program will also effect their friends and family.

"When they go home, they will tell mom and dad to wear a helmet. So there's also that teaching factor that gets spread throughout the family," Burley said. "It's contagious. As long as we can raise the money we are going to continue to flood the market with helmets."

Burley and other volunteers gave out helmets at Rutherfordton Elementary School on Monday. They adjusted each helmet to fit the students and Burley went over safety tips with them. The students also signed a contract saying they would wear their helmets each time they ride bicycles.

"I do this for the kids," Sandy Fox, Safe Kids treasurer, said. "The best part is seeing their reaction. They are thrilled about them (helmets) and get so excited."

Burley said the program would not be possible without the help of the volunteers.

"There's no physical way possible that I could do this by myself. It's one of those things I can organize but if I don't have the buy-in by those volunteers who also feel its important, it wouldn't work," Burley said. "It's a monumental task that one person couldn't do."

Bicycle helmet sponsors are Safe Kids Rutherford County, Kiwanis of Forest City, Kiwanis of Rutherfordton and the Pilot Club of Rutherford County.