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Linda Mah
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Bike Essays Inspire Gift of Helmets

Volunteers Gifted New Helmets to Second Graders

Second graders in Aimee Burgardt’s classroom at KingWestwood Elementary School were asked to write persuasive essays arguing whether or not they believe children should be required to wear helmets when riding bikes.

School volunteers gave the students a very good reason to wear bike helmets —a gift of free helmets.

The 28 students in Burgardt’s classroom received helmets that were donated by Eric and Tobi Breisach. Eric Breisach is a former member of the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education. They learned about the writing project when they were visiting KingWestwood as part of the Kalamazoo Rotary “Rotary Reads” proj ect. Kzoo Swift sold the helmets at cost to the Breisachs.

“While volunteering, we learned from teacher Aimee Burgardt that many of the students did not have proper bike helmets,” Eric Breisach said. “Almost 30 years ago our oldest son took a low-speed flip over his handlebars splitting his helmet in two. The helmet likely saved his life.

“We want all kids to have access to helmets, know how to wear a bike helmet, and to wear one at all the times when they are bike riding. We worked with Ryan Barber, owner of Kzoo Swift, a downtown bike shop, whose generosity made this a reality.”

Barber visited the classroom to encourage the students to wear helmets whenever riding their bikes. He also showed them how to properly fit a helmet to ensure they’re safe.

The students voiced a variety of opinions in their essays, with not everyone agreeing on the need to wear helmets. Hannah Bippley argued, “One reason I think kids should be required to wear them is that you’d probably want to pay $20-$30 for a bicycle helmet rather than $500,000 or even $1 million for brain surgery.”

But Liam Mwayi argued for individual freedom and the right to choose, saying, “Helmets don’t prevent all concussions. They cost about $20 and not everyone can afford a helmet. I don’t like to wear my helmet. We are a free country!”

Burgardt said the writing project is one of her favorite activities. “Keeping children safe and involved in exercise is very important to me,” she said. “I also love to teach writing and this is one of my favorite projects to do with students, because they all have a lot to say and write. My second graders also have strong opinions and we engaged in some great discussions over the course of this three-week project. The kids are so proud about their writing and they are also now ready to wear their stylish helmets.”

According to Safe Kids Worldwide:

· Bike helmets reduce head injuries by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent.

· In 2010, approximately 81,101 nonfatal injuries among child cyclists were traffic-related.

· More children ages 5 to 14 are seen in ERs for injuries related to biking than any other sport.

· A 25 percent reduction in childhood bike injuries and deaths could lead to savings of over $500 million in societal costs (health care and productivity losses.)

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