Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Hard Head Patrol is attempting to protect children’s brains one helmet at a time.
The patrol is back for its eighth summer to teach children of all ages the importance of wearing a helmet when they ride their bikes, scooters and skateboards.
“We were looking at injuries with kids crashing and being admitted to the hospital as one of our more significant classifications so we wanted to target something that would encourage kids to wear helmets,” said Chris Vitale, manager for injury prevention at Children’s Hospital.
Throughout the summer, the patrol will host events where they will give out free helmets and fittings at Kohl’s department stores throughout the Pittsburgh region.
Children’s Hospital employees will also keep an eye on their communities to make sure the children who already have helmets are using them.
If a child is wearing his or her helmet, the employee will reward them with Cookie Cards from Giant Eagle.
“We also wanted to focus not so much on just the kids who weren’t wearing helmets, but we wanted to be able to focus on some positive things and reward the kids who were protecting themselves and being a role model to others,” Vitale said.
If they see kids zipping past helmet-less, the employees will provide them with a coupon for the free helmet and fitting.
Vitale said parents often make sure their younger ones are wearing helmets, but the older kids need supervision, too.
“They have a sense of security because the kids are a little bit more expert as they get a little bit older, but what we tell the older kids is they’re being a role model to the little kids, so if the older kids will wear a helmet, then the little kids will think it’s a cool thing to do,” Vitale said.
According to the Hard Head Patrol, 168 children were admitted to Children’s Hospital last year because of bicycle-related injuries, and 65 percent of them were not wearing helmets.
Vitale said the damage ranges from lacerations to serious traumatic brain injuries.
The program will become a year round initiative starting this winter when the patrol takes on safety with winter sports and skiing.
The next event will be held at the Kohl’s in Monaca June 28 from 4 to 7 p.m.