Elementary school children ditched a beautiful sunny evening on Thursday to ride indoors at the Sportsplex Arena.
The 200 kids who registered for the first Helmets on Kids event in Timmins got a free bike helmet from O’Reilly Sports and the chance to learn about traffic signs and the hand signals they need to ride safely for the rest of their lives.
The remaining 50 helmets were donated to local agencies.
“We’d rather see the kids here, playing and having fun than see them in our office with a brain injury, or even worse, in the hospital,” said André Bourdon, a personal injury lawyer with Girones Bourdon Kelly which sponsored the event .
The firm has represented cases involving both adults and children who have suffered head injuries due to cycling accidents.
These clients’ injuries could have been much worse if they had not been wearing their helmets, according to the firm’s legal assistant, Shannon Clark, which is why the firm chose to sponsor Helmets on Kids: To get young children into the habit of wearing a helmet early, before they become teenagers and think it’s not “cool.”
Helmets on Kids has been sponsored by law firms with the Ontario Trial Lawyers’ Association in partnership with local brain injury associations since 2002 across Southern Ontario, but this was the first time it was held in Timmins.
Dr. Chris Clark was present to field questions for the Seizure and Brain Injury Center (SABIC), the event’s community partner.
“The problem with kids is that a lot of times they don’t come in for care because they’re running around seeming fine,” he said. “But they may have hit their head and not realized there’s an injury there. With the helmets they’re pretty well protected.”
When it comes to bicycle crashes, head injuries are the leading cause of death, according to the Porcupine Health Unit.
Marty Paul, from the PHU, said it’s important to wear a helmet properly by following the “2-V-1” rule.
“Two fingers above the eyebrow, the ‘V’ around the ears, so it fits nice and snug around the ears,” said Paul, who was leading the team from Girones Bourdon Kelly to fit helmets. “And ‘1’ is for the one-finger space underneath the chin.” he said, referring to the snugness of the chin strap. “A helmet that’s nice and snug is a lot safer.”
Paul added that it’s important to check the manufacturing date located on the inside of the helmet. The product is good for five years after that date, and should be discarded if it has been involved in a crash.
In the case of a very hard blow to the head, even a bike helmet will not protect against a concussion, which is caused by the brain moving quickly inside the skull. However, in the incident of a fall, a helmet is excellent at preventing skull fracture, and will reduce the likelihood and severity of a concussion, Paul said.
The best prevention is to both wear a helmet and cycle safely.
That’s why “Helmets on Kids” partnered with the bike rodeo which is put on yearly by the Timmins Police Service.
Timmins Police Const. Caroline Rouillard and TPS Auxiliary Tammy Grydsuk taught stopping and directional hand signals to the budding young cyclists, and coached them to understand stop lights and handle oncoming traffic.
“I didn’t know the arm signals,” said Samantha Keen, who learned to signal stopping. “It shows: ‘I’m stopped, you go.'”
AnneMarie Sorsa, executive director of SABIC, said she jumped at the chance to promote brain injury prevention. The center gets many requests from parents for post-concussion services.
“Anyone who gets a concussion in childhood becomes our client,” said Sorsa.
The center provides life-skills re-learning, peer mentoring, and a drop-in program for adults who are what Sorsa calls, “neuro-diverse”: Those with epilepsy, acquired brain injury, autism, ADHD, and Asperger’s syndrome.
The center recently moved to Third Avenue to better serve their clientele, but still needs to fundraise to provide bus passes and other ways of removing barriers to access for its services.
That’s why the center is holding it’s “Color it Up!” run, on June 18th during Brain Injury Awareness Month. Participants get doused with non-toxic colored powder as they complete one or two laps around Gillies Lake, by walking or running.
To register or for more information call 705-264-2933 or visit online at sabic.ca.