By REBECCA WEBSTER
Recorder News Staff
In recent weeks, first- and second-graders across Fulton, Montgomery, and Schoharie counties tried their hand at designing helmets.
The lesson was to teach the young ones a importance lesson, that helmets, when worn, can save lives.
And on Saturday, at St. Mary’s Healthcare’s Carondelet Pavilion, 27 students were recognized for their commitment to their drawings.
It was the 14th Annual Helmet Drawing Contest Award Ceremony, and St. Mary’s staff, along with local politicians, awarded the students with certificates and their personal stories of the life-saving power of helmets.
The contest was a partnership between St. Mary’s Healthcare, the Brain Injury Association of New York State, New York State Police, St. Mary’s Healthcare Brain Injury Support Group, and the local school districts across the tri-county area.
Aside from introducing the speakers, Vic Giulianelli, president and CEO of St. Mary’s Healthcare, gave the families there some statistics about brain injuries.
“Did you know that in New York State every year, 6,000 children, ages 19 and younger, are treated in hospitals for injuries sustained while using wheeled recreational equipment, such as bicycles?” Giulianelli posed. “And nearly 3,000 children are treated for brain injuries sustained while skiing and snowboarding.
“Over 10 percent of these kids are diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries as a result.”
Giulianelli added that about 4,000 students are treated for concussions each year.
But when fitted properly, helmets can reduce the risks of children suffering from those traumatic brain injuries by 88 percent, he said.
Giulianelli thanked the children for participating and the adults for providing education to them.
He also thanked David Hughes, who has been the facilitator for the brain injury support group at St. Mary’s for the past 18 years.
Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Kelli McCoski, Montgomery County Family Court Judge Philip Cortese, Montgomery County Supreme Court Judge Joseph Sise, and Judy Avner, Executive Director of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, all presented awards to the students.
Before McCoski announced the awards in her section, she pulled out a large bag filled with all different types of helmets to show the children that they protect in other sports, too, besides simply bike riding.
She then showed them a skateboard broken in half.
“This was my son’s skateboard, his freshman year in college. .... He got hit by a cab and the only thing that helped him was his helmet, so it is important to wear helmets,” she said as the attendees gasped at the site of the broken board.
Later in the ceremony, Sise told the families about the traumatic brain injury cases that come through the courthouse.
He also informed them of a story of how when he was biking a few years ago, his wheel slipped and within seconds he hit the ground.
“Once I shook off the excitement of it, I said, ‘I’m OK. I’m OK.’ And I looked at my helmet and it all was cracked. It had broken my bicycle helmet, but I was fine,” he said. “Had I not had a helmet, it would have been a very severe injury.”
The final speaker of the ceremony was Avner, who told the crowd that this is Brain Injury Awareness Month and that the contest was the only one of its kind in the country.
“The latest numbers tells us that one person sustains a brain injury every 18 1/2 seconds,” Avner said.
She said that number gives people a sense of how many people this type of injury effects and why it’s important to take steps to not only help treat those with the injuries, but prevent them.
“Brain injuries happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone, and that’s the most important lesson.”
Students went home with certificates and prizes and first place winners went home with a brand new bike helmet.
One student even won $100 from the Amsterdam Mohawks for the purchase of a new bike.
After the event was over, parents went up to see all of helmet designs. Some took them home. Others gave them to Avner to display at an upcoming art show.
Following the ceremony, first-grader Ashley Moorhead who won an Honorable Mention award, said she learned a lot from the design contest.
“To always wear your helmet and help others with their helmets when they don’t use them, and when they don’t I will ask them, ‘Please use your helmet,’ because there are very special injuries that you could get from not wearing a helmet.”