Hard Hats for Little Heads program helps 3,700-plus second-graders stay safe

More than 35 elementary schools participate in program at Reed Arena

Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Cindy Kovar, 979-862-1921, cmkovar@ag.tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION —More than 3,700 second-graders from Bryan-College Station and the surrounding area recently participated in the recent ninth annual Hard Hats for Little Heads injury prevention program and free helmet distribution event at Reed Arena on the Texas A&M University campus.

“Highlights included Texas A&M baseball, football, equestrian and softball athletes in competitive scenarios demonstrating how wearing a helmet is essential to preventing head injuries in their respective sports,” said Cindy Kovar, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service program manager. “The program showed the second-graders it’s just as essential to wear a helmet for protection when they’re riding bicycles or ATVs or on a skateboard or scooter.”

Kovar said community leaders, school administrators and costumed mascots from area schools participated in a four-person relay race as part of program activities. She said this year’s event was attended by representatives from various area independent school districts, including Bryan-College Station, Anderson-Shiro, Brenham, Burton, Caldwell, Hearne, Navasota, Mumford and Snook. In all, more than 35 area elementary schools participated in the program.

Second-graders line up to race at the Hard Hats for Little Heads event. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo)

The Hard Hats for Little Heads initiative was developed by the Texas Medical Association to educate children on how to prevent head injuries. It is supported through a Texas Medical Foundation grant and other donors, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, TMA Foundation Make-A-Difference donors and the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio. Additional support through gifts comes from the Texas Medical Association, TMA Alliance members and interested individuals.

For the Reed Arena event, AgriLife Extension collaborated with Texas ENT and Allergy, Aggie Athletes Involved, Texas A&M Athletics, the Texas Medical Association, Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition and Texas Department of Transportation.

“Supporting groups hosted the event to show the importance of wearing helmets and increase injury prevention awareness among the students, teachers and parents,” Kovar said. “Following the event, every student received a free bicycle helmet and a bag filled with child safety information and educational resources after they returned to their respective schools.”

The AgriLife Extension-led Brazos Valley Injury Prevention Coalition and TxDOT have been major partners in presenting Hard Hats for Little Heads events since 2009, Kovar said. And according to program materials, Hard Hats for Little Kids, which is presented locally through the Health World Healthy Children Foundation, has reached more than 25,000 second-graders from 2009 to the present.

“We warehoused and distributed the 3,700 helmets for the Reed Arena event to those participating elementary schools in the various school districts,” said Terri Miller, traffic safety specialist for the TxDOT Bryan District. “This was a very large event and it wouldn’t have been possible without the cooperation of AgriLife Extension.”

Miller noted AgriLife Extension and the TxDOT Bryan District collaborate on other safety initiatives in addition to Hard Hats for Little Heads, including bicycle and pedestrian safety, the Shattered Dreams impaired and distracted driving awareness program, and ATV safety training.

For the event, AgriLife Extension also collaborated with Bryan Collegiate High School, which provided about 40 students who volunteered after-school time to assemble and stuff 3,700 educational resource bags as a school community service activity. Kovar directed the activity with assistance from AgriLife Extension program coordinator Mary Jo Prince, AgriLife Extension community health student intern Graham Dressel and Bryan Collegiate High School teacher Beverly Davis.

“We emphasize community service here at the school, and this activity was an overwhelming success,” Davis said. “Most of the kids who volunteered either recently became drivers or are soon-to-be drivers, so it was important they learned about traffic safety issues. And when the students found out they would be helping educate second-graders on safety, they became very enthusiastic. A few of the kids at the school even told me they had received helmets from the program back when they were in second grade.”

Kovar said she appreciated the funding and efforts of program sponsors and participants and looks forward to collaborating on more Hard Hats for Little heads programs in the future.

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