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Blue Jackets, City of Columbus team up for bike safety initiative

by Katie Foglia / Columbus Blue Jackets

On Monday, a particularly sunny spring day in Columbus, groups of students excitedly gathered outside of South Mifflin Elementary for the City of Columbus’ Neighborhood Pride Bicycle Safety Festival, featuring everybody’s favorite bug: Stinger.

Stinger helped distribute and properly fit a free Blue Jackets-branded helmet to all 335 students. In addition, the program included hands-on bicycle safety training and a number of other safety-themed activities.

“Supporting the health and wellness of kids in central Ohio is the mission of the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation and promoting safe play goes hand-in-hand with that mission,” said Kathryn Dobbs, Blue Jackets VP of Community Relations and Executive Director of the Blue Jackets Foundation.

“More importantly, our grant partners at Nationwide Children’s Hospital do a great job working closely with city programs like Neighborhood Pride to not only distribute bike helmets to the kids who need them, but they provide the hands-on bike safety training as well.”

After learning about the importance of wearing a helmet and receiving a proper fitting, the students were given instruction on the correct hand signals to use while riding as well as what to do when approaching street signage (stop, yield, etc.). Next, the kids were able to put what they learned to test at the interactive Safety Town course.

“The Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation and Nationwide Children’s Hospital have been so important in this program. We wouldn’t be able to give helmets to these kids if not for them,” said Beth Fairman Kinney, Community Relations Coordinator for Neighborhood Pride.

“It’s so important to get helmets into the hands of kids because either kids can’t afford them or they don’t know how to fit them to their heads.”

Thanks to a long-standing grant partnership between the Blue Jackets Foundation and the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Foundation, the hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy (CIRP) administers a program that distributes approximately 5,500 bike helmets annually to children in central Ohio.

Over the history of this partnership, the CIRP has distributed approximately 36,120 helmets.

“It’s just been amazing,” said Nichole L. Hodges, the Center for Injury Research and Policy Injury Prevention Coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. "I don’t know of any other program in the state that gets this kind of support for bike helmets. It’s wonderful that we have this here in Columbus, and we really primarily try to keep the helmets in Columbus where the need is greatest.”

Since 2008, the Blue Jackets Foundation has been the program’s sole source of bike helmet funding which facilitates helmet distribution through the City of Columbus’ Neighborhood Pride events, local police departments, child care centers, summer programs, camps and other bike safety-related nonprofit organizations.

“The way that Neighborhood Pride does this program is really the way that we like to see it done,” Hodges said. “They’re giving the kids the education, they’re fitting the helmets to each child so they all have a helmet that fits correctly, and then they even have the bike course where the kids can try out the bikes. They learn how to stop at the stop signs, how to give the hand signals and so it’s really like the complete package.”

Hodges said the program used to have a much smaller scope and fewer resources before the Blue Jackets Foundation backed it. Additionally, Hodges said having Stinger join the kids really gets them excited about bike safety.

“The kids love to see Stinger, they love to see Stinger ride the bike. They’re cheering him on, so it gets them excited about the bike helmets. The helmets have Stinger on them, so it’s nice when he can be here and get the kids excited about the program,” Hodges said.

"We couldn’t do it without the Blue Jackets. We have no other support for our program for bike helmets. So without the Blue Jackets supporting this program, we wouldn’t be able to do the great work that we’re able to do.”

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