Pedaling around State Fair Park in new helmets, 600 third graders recently participated in the 10th annual Winners Wear Helmets bike rodeo. Spearheaded by Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin, the interactive and educational rodeo teaches children proper bike helmet use and safety.
Thanks to donations from Habush Habush & Rottier S.C., all students at the day’s event went home with a properly fitted bike helmet. The law firm has donated 100,000 bicycle helmets to children since it started working with community partners in 1999, when Habush Habush & Rottier Charitable Funds was established to give back to the communities in which its attorneys practice.
“Child safety is something that I have been personally devoted to ever since experiencing a personal tragedy in my family,” said Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. Chairman of the Board Bob Habush. “When it came time to financially support a cause, I thought preventing injury to kids was the best way to go.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found accidental injuries to be the leading cause of death among children age 14 and younger. According to the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, properly fitted bike helmets can reduce the risk of bike-related brain injuries by 88 percent, yet only 25 percent of cyclists ages 14 and younger wear a helmet.
D’Lan Boyd, a third grader at Hartford Avenue University School, 2227 East Hartford Ave., sported a shiny new black helmet covered with space aliens. When asked whether he’d continue to wear it, he said without hesitation, “oh yeah.”
Wandering throughout the rodeo, adult volunteers could be heard giving directions to smiling kids: “Put your brakes on before you get there;” “It’s not about going fast, it’s about riding in a straight line;” and “look left, look right.”
ISCorp Cycling Team members have been volunteering at the rodeo for several years, teaching children who don’t know how to ride a bike. Long-time volunteer Katie Weber estimated they would serve about 100 children by day’s end, with about half learning to ride by themselves.
Volunteer Peter Kudlata, who developed the training station, said the most challenging students to teach are those who don’t pedal or who pedal backwards. “I tell them don’t worry about balance, just pedal,” he explained. Kudlata’s success stories included a boy who finally succeeded after eight trips down the course and back, and a girl who learned in four trips, and then “wouldn’t get off the bike.” Kudlata joked, “I didn’t lose anyone to the fences [yet] this year.”
For students who already knew how to ride a bike, different rodeos – or obstacle courses – reinforced bike safety lessons, such as braking, making safe turns, watching out for others and stopping at stop signs. City of Milwaukee police officers staffed many of the rodeos, educating students about laws bikers should follow.
Deputy Sheriff Dushawn Jones of the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department said that the students got to “see that a lot of cool jobs involve helmets.” He added, “It may be cumbersome or hot or look weird, but it’s protection and protection’s important.”
Safe Kids Southeast Wisconsin Coordinator Lisa Klindt Simpson emphasized that the event is a “community effort.”
The Boys and Girls Club, Cooper Elementary School, the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department and Explosive Ordinance Disposal Division (Bomb Squad), and the Milwaukee police and fire departments hosted demonstration stations. Other sponsors included Metropolitan Milwaukee Nights Kiwanis, Wheel and Sprocket, Wisconsin State Fair Park, Bell Ambulance, Injury Free Coalition for Kids, Milwaukee Urban League and other volunteers and community organizations.