by Betty Bardswich
M’CHIGEENG—There are a lot of happy kids in United Chiefs and Council Manitoulin (UCCM) area schools, not just because they are on holidays, but also because a recent partnership formed of many diverse organizations led to the distribution of free bicycle helmets for all kids from pre-school to Grade 8.
UCCM Chief of Police Rodney Nahwegahbow got things rolling at Lakeview School in M’Chigeeng by saying, “Our most valuable resource is our kids. We want to remind the parents to make sure the kids wear their helmets so everyone has a safe summer.” He went on to tell the kids in attendance that it was good to come to this really special event and said, “Give yourselves a pat on the back. Have a safe summer and put on your helmets whenever you ride your bike.”
Chief Shining Turtle of the Whitefish River First Nation was one of the partners and stated that he was a big supporter of the program. “This is our first helmet distribution and it is the biggest one in Ontario thanks to Rodney. This is really our best partnership distribution. This is a great opportunity to promote partnerships. When you have a partnership, you’re working together, you’re working for the communities, for safer communities, starting with the kids and then their parents. On behalf of the chiefs of the Island, Rodney and the others, they want to make your summer safe. Use your head, wear your helmet.”
Also on hand at Lakeview School for the handing out of the helmets was Brian Patterson, representing the Ontario Safety League, who is responsible for all of Ontario for that organization. He began his talk by talking about Manitoulin Transport. “They have the safest fleet in Ontario,” he said. “They live safety. When I see their trucks, I always think safety. Now it’s kids’ safety as well. We will be giving every school an Elmer the Safety Elephant flag to remind them all about safety.” He went on to explain that 750 bike helmets would be given out. There is no reason, he told the children, to be without a helmet when cycling. He also gave thanks to M’Chigeeng for hosting the event and for the great spirit of cooperation. “This will be going,” Mr. Patterson added, “all the way up to the premier to know that this is the safest area in Ontario.”
Mr. Patterson told The Expositor that his grandmother was one of the original Fosters on Manitoulin. “She was born in 1881 and named Pearl Edith Foster at the 10th Concession. She was married on the Island in 1903.”
Todd Fullerton, the Regional Marketing Planner for Northern Ontario for the Ministry of Transportation, was also at the bike helmet event and thanked the chiefs and councils and the communities on the Island for inviting the ministry to participate.
“The Honourable Steven Del Duca, the Minister of Transportation, couldn’t be here today,” he explained, “but he sends along his greeting and the message that ‘cycling is an important part of a happy childhood, and on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation, I hope today’s event helps more children build fond memories of their time spent on a bike. I’m particularly pleased we can promote safe cycling by reminding children and adults of the need for cycling safety, especially the need to wear a helmet’.”
The Assistant Deputy Minister for the Road User Safety Division, Heidi Francis, also sent her greetings and said, “Ontario is a world leader in road safety and public education and partnerships like the one represented today with the Ontario Safety League, the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, police services, health care professionals, the M’Chigeeng Board of Education, Lakeview School, and the UCCMM First Nations.”
“Cycling can be a great part of a healthy lifestyle as well as an efficient mode of transportation,” she continued. “We are always very supportive of our road safety partners and injury prevention advocates’ efforts in promoting helmet use and cycling safety for children and adults. I wish everyone great success in this campaign that will reach out to First Nations communities and thank you for your commitment and dedication to road safety.”
Also joining up with the other partners were UCCM Constable Murray Still and OPP Constable Steve Hart who, along with Lakeview School Principal Neil Debassige, showed the kids the correct hand signal signs for turns right, left and slow and had the children laughing as Mr. Debassige was given an iPad for his efforts, which was actually a pad for his eye.
Mr. Debassige asked the kids, “This is the second last day of school. Who’s excited?” to a very enthusiastic response from the group. Pointing at Elmer the Safety Elephant, he also asked “Elmer never forgets what? His helmet and safety.”
Public Health Nurses Kelly Bayer and Serena Verboom, representing the Sudbury and District Health Unit, were at hand and Ms. Verboom told the kids, “We are here as a partner with the Manitoulin Injury Prevention Coalition, promoting safe use of cycling.” She then gave a demonstration of the proper way to fit a helmet, using the 2-V-1 system which is two fingers above the eyebrow, a V at the ears and one finger between the chin and chin strap. Ms. Verboon also showed the importance of a helmet for safety by using a melon which she dropped to the cement while standing on a ladder to show the students what could happen to their heads if they are not wearing their helmets and also what could happen if the helmet was not strapped in.
Mr. Patterson led the kids in making a promise by having them say, “I pledge to wear my helmet all summer whenever I ride my bike.” A safety flag was presented to Lakeview School and area, which will be the safest place in Ontario all summer.