Friday, March 3, 2017

Hard Hats for Little Heads: A Community Affair in Odessa

By Christine Wan
Odessa family physician
Hard Hats for Little Heads Physician Advisory Panel member

Editor’s Note: March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and physicians encourage children and adults to wear the correct helmet for every wheeled sport to prevent brain injury or death in case of an accident.

As physicians, we love helping others. We are privileged to be in a position to help individuals in a meaningful way on a daily basis, but how can we help our community in a larger way?

For me, that opportunity came through a TMA program and a local organization. A few years ago, I joined Pilot Club of Odessa, a community service organization whose core membership is mostly professional women who want to bring positive things to our community. At a regional meeting in Lubbock, the Pilot Club of Alpine shared a presentation about how its club and a local physician, Adrian Billings, MD, cohosted a TMA Hard Hats for Little Heads event to give bike helmets to kids at a bike fair.

I knew Dr. Billings (also a Hard Hats advisory panel member) from our medical school days at The University of Texas Medical Branch, and I had heard about the Hard Hats program a few years earlier. I thought about doing Hard Hats then but didn’t know how I, as one doctor, would pull this off. After hearing about this collaboration between Pilot Club of Alpine and Hard Hats for Little Heads, I suggested our Odessa Pilot club bring the program to our community with me as the TMA physician sponsor. Everyone was in enthusiastic agreement.

Seven years later, we have given out more than 3,500 helmets to our kids. We hosted events at schools and bike fairs in our city, as well as rural areas around us in Crane and Fort Stockton. Our big yearly event is the Odessa Fall Festival, put on by the City of Odessa Parks and Recreation Department. The city began Fall Festival the same year we started our Hard Hats for Little Heads project, and organizers contacted Pilot Club about volunteering. We told them we could bring volunteers AND free bike helmets to give away. Every year, children come out early to line up for the helmets at the festival.

One year we had about 20 helmets left over, and we sent those to an orphanage in Guatemala via an Odessa church’s mission trip. Bike riding is vital in Guatemala as a form of transportation and employment. So our helmets have even gone international!

Pilot Club has a puppet presentation called “Brain Minders” that pairs nicely with the helmet giveaway when we do school presentations. The TMA Hard Hats program staff were great in helping us get started, providing resources and excellent communication. I and others have presented our Hard Hats project at local, regional, and state Pilot Club meetings and at Texas Tech School of Medicine to spread the word. So my story is one that began with a thought about how I, as one busy physician, could help my city and beyond in a bigger way. The answer to my question was to reach out to my professional and community organizations for help.

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