Kid Reporters

Helmets on Heads

TFK talks to Olympian and bicycling advocate Summer Sanders about a new campaign on helmet safety

October 12, 2012
COURTESY ED BAGWELL

TFK Kid Reporter Storm Bookhard talks to Olympian and Schwinn Brand Ambassador Summer Sanders about bicycle safety at PS 41, in New York City

The feeling of a fresh breeze in your face, independence and bird-like momentum can make anybody feel carefree and happy. You can relive that glorious feeling of freedom every time you ride a bike. But it is important to always wear a helmet for safety. That’s the message Olympic gold medalist swimmer Summer Sanders is trying to get out as an ambassador for Schwinn’s “Helmets on Heads” campaign, in partnership with the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation. Schwinn is a company that makes bicycles and bike gear.

On October 4, TFK Kid Reporter Storm Bookhard caught up with Sanders at PS 41 in New York City. Sanders was there to kick off the campaign by teaching students about helmet safety and injury prevention.

TFK:

Why did you want to get involved in the “Helmets on Heads” campaign?

SANDERS:

I have two kids. Every single day, we are riding our bikes. It’s what they love to do. I’ve always told them they cannot ride their bikes without helmets, even if they are going next door. So I lead by example. It’s most effective to get your kids to listen when you take action yourself and do what you want them to do.

TFK:

What else are you doing to get the word out about helmet safety?

SANDERS:

We are going around the country. We have several stops; New York is our first. The big thing is just through word of mouth, making biking safely a fun activity. We are also educating [people] on statistics. [Most] high school students—about 80% at least—do not wear their helmets, and that’s a big problem. You can protect your head from injury when you wear a helmet.

TFK:

What are some important facts kids need to know about helmet safety?

SANDERS:

Properly fitting your helmet. To really know how many fingertips above your eyebrows [the helmet] should be. [Learn more at helmetsonheads.org.] Often, you see kids with their helmets falling off their heads. The helmets are way too far back, and they are not protecting the proper part of their heads. I always tell kids, “You go to school and fill your brain with information. You don’t want to mess that up. You need to protect that knowledge.” It’s been really fun today to watch the kids feel the snug fit and see how to adjust their helmets.

TFK:

What do you enjoy most about bike riding?

SANDERS:

I love to bike ride. When I hop on my Schwinn, I feel like a kid again. I remember the sense of freedom [I felt when I first learned to ride a bike] whenever I hop on my bike with my kids and see that look in their eyes. I love the fact that we go on family bike rides. It’s something we can all do together.

TFK:

You won a gold medal in swimming during the 1992 Olympic Games, in Barcelona, Spain. What did you think of the London Games this summer?

SANDERS:

In the swimming pool, I really thought the women shined. Of course, Michael Phelps is amazing and Ryan Lochte was incredible, but Missy Franklin and Katie Ledecky are names that you are going to see in four years, and they are going to be the leaders on that team. For a long time, we have seen the men as the leaders. As a female swimmer, it’s fun to see the women take charge, and Missy Franklin is just one of those rare athletes who gets it and has the charisma, personally, and courage to do it all, and it was beautiful to watch.

TFK:

What advice do you have for kid athletes who are passionate about their sports?

SANDERS:

I always say to kids what my mom said to me, “ You can do anything you want if you put your mind to it.” And that’s a really powerful statement. If as a kid you can get that and take ownership of it, you realize, “It’s under my control. If I decide I want to do something, I need to work hard and be dedicated and disciplined, and most importantly, have fun with it.” Keep the passion there. I think all professional athletes will say that they love their sports and what they are doing.


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