For more than 100 participants, Friday night was a perfect night to celebrate bike safety.
Thanks to a partnership between the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation, Nationwide Children's Hospital, Columbia Gas, and local police and fire departments, children from around the central Ohio area were recognized for their commitment to safety at Nationwide Arena.
The Bike Helmet Program, which distributes helmets to kids all throughout the area, is a staple of the community outreach efforts by the Blue Jackets Foundation. Over the past two years, Blue Jackets partner Columbia Gas invested $100,000 in the program, showing a commitment to kids safety that is at the core of the mission of the Blue Jackets Foundation.
Video: Columbia Gas Bike Helmet Safety PSA
"At Columbia Gas, we are proud to partner with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nationwide Children's Hospital to make sure children across central Ohio are protected and have access to a helmet," said Ellen Macke, community engagement officer with Columbia Gas of Ohio.
"Watching the excitement on the children's faces as they arrived at Nationwide Arena to pick up their Blue Jackets-branded bike helmet was a real treat for our employees who volunteered at the Bike Helmet Safety Program event last Friday."
The event featured a program hosted by Blue Jackets broadcaster Jeff Rimer, visits from Columbia Gas' Digger Dog and Blue Jackets mascot Stinger, a tour of Nationwide Arena, a new Blue Jackets Foundation bike helmet fitted to each kid's head, and an ice cream treat for the kids and their families.
The bike helmet program is one of the longest-tenured programs sponsored by the Blue Jackets Foundation. Developed by Nationwide Children's Hospital thanks to funding from the Foundation, it has helped distribute more than 51,000 helmets to central Ohio kids.
The ones who arrived at Nationwide Arena on Friday night were invited after being "ticketed" by area police and fire departments over the summer. Children who were observed demonstrating bike safety by wearing a helmet while riding were given the tickets, which was redeemable for the weekend event.
"This is another opportunity for us to come together to give branded helmets to kids in their communities in order for them to be able to be safe and cover their heads while riding their bikes," said Katie Matney, interim executive director of the CBJ Foundation. "The event Friday night allowed us to have a celebration around kids safety while getting the chance to go into the arena and have a really nice family event."
The partnership featuring Columbia Gas was first celebrated a year ago when Blue Jackets forward Boone Jenner was part of a video message to local children that underlined the importance of bicycle safety.
"It's a great partnership opportunity for Columbia Gas and the Columbus Blue Jackets Foundation," Matney said. "It gives local kids a chance to be safe while showing their CBJ pride!"
The aim of the Blue Jackets Foundation is to support the youth of central Ohio by dedicating time, resources and financial support to organizations making a difference in the areas of pediatric cancer, reading, fitness through play and the growth and development of amateur hockey.
That goal can be taken to a new level when the Blue Jackets' corporate partners get involved, which is one reason Columbia Gas was happy to team up and do its part to improve health and wellness for local kids.
"This initiative is a great example of how when organizations team up for a good cause like safety, it creates a greater impact in our communities," Macke said.