Bridget Healey moved her jaw up and down to make sure the chin strap on her new bike helmet wasn’t too tight. After a few adjustments, the fit was perfect and she was ready to hit the road.
“It feels secure and safe,” said the 11-year-old Mineola girl who enjoys bike riding, in-line skating and scootering with her older brother and neighbor. “I’m going to wear it every time now, because I’m a little clumsy and I think it will help a lot.”
More than 200 fifth graders at Mineola Middle School were fitted Monday for free bike helmets provided by Schwinn through the Helmets on Heads program. Multi-brand bike retailer Cannondale Sports, which recently opened a new store in nearby Carle Place, sponsored the event.
“There’s no point to wearing a helmet if it’s not fitted,” said Rob Morrison, vice president of Cannondale’s retail division and an avid cyclist. “I’ve crashed more than a few times and destroyed four helmets ... and I’m living, breathing proof that it works.”
Morrison spent the morning fitting the students for their helmets along with other members of the Cannondale team, employees from Mineola Bicycle and staff from Cohen Children’s Hospital of New York in New Hyde Park. He was pleased to see that their was no “push back” from any of the kids. Some even chose to wear their helmets throughout the assembly and still had them on as they headed back to class.
“They’ve been really excited to get a helmet,” said Danielle Friedman, 38, a sales associate for Mineola Bicycle in Mineola. “Hopefully this carries through and they do wear their helmets when they are riding their bikes.”
To demonstrate just how effective helmets are at protecting people’s brains, the physicians from Cohen Children’s Hospital, which is part of the New York City-Long Island Chapter of ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation, conducted some experiments for the kids. They dropped two watermelons. The first one splattered into several pieces on the stage of the school’s auditorium, while the second one, encased inside a standard bike helmet, remained intact.
“I knew your brain could shake around and jiggle, but I didn’t know it could smash like that,” said fifth grader Ethan Sargeant, 10, of Mineola.
Dr. Debora Riccardi, a pediatric nurse practitioner and the director of community outreach for Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, said the demonstrations were meant to "wow" the kids.
“You have to figure out creatively how to make it work so they listen,” she said. “That’s how you drive the messages home.”
Although Ethan says he and the rest of his family always wears their helmets when riding their bikes, he said the program has inspired him to spread the message to others.
If he spots someone on the road not protecting their head, he said, “I’ll tell them, ‘Make sure to wear your helmet or your brain could smash like a watermelon.’”