Kids Fest 2019 was the final rodeo for Craig Hayes and Roger and Mary Ann Pardieck.
At the end of the year, Hayes retired from the Seymour Police Department after more than 30 years of service, and the Pardiecks closed The Pardieck Law Firm in Seymour, ending Roger’s 55-year law career.
Hayes led the bicycle rodeo at Kids Fest, and the Pardiecks gave free helmets to kids who completed the bicycle safety class and rodeo.
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Fortunately for kids attending the 23rd annual Kids Fest on April 18 at Seymour Middle School, the class, rodeo and helmets will all still be a part of the popular event.
Schneck Medical Center has stepped up to take over the bike helmet program, and the police department will continue to man the rodeo.
“Schneck’s mission is to improve the health of the communities we serve. This program is just one of the ways we are achieving that mission,” said Stephanie Furlow, director of marketing for the Seymour hospital.
“It’s exciting to be able to continue this program at Kids Fest,” she said. “Wearing a bike helmet is critical in the prevention of head and brain injury, and a helmet won’t protect the head if it does not fit properly.”
Mary Ann Pardieck recently met with Furlow; Kate Garrity, executive director of Child Care Network and organizer of Kids Fest; and Natalie Harpe, events coordinator at Schneck, to share information about how the helmet program started and how they ran it.
“Twenty years ago, we had an idea that this would work with our mission with the law firm primarily because we dealt with quite a few clients that suffered from brain injuries and had significant injuries from auto accidents, and brain injury was just such a part of what we did,” Mary Ann said. “We talked about how we could have a community effort for the firm.”
The bicycle rodeo already existed but was done without a prize at the end, she said. They only thing kids received for completing it was a certificate.
The Pardiecks realized they could award kids with bike helmets.
“It was a hit right off the bat,” Mary Ann said.
When Kids Fest was a smaller event, the firm also offered essay and coloring contests. As the event grew, though, there was so much for kids to do, so the firm settled on just doing the bike helmets.
Fitting children with the right size helmet and letting them and their parents know how to properly strap it were important to the Pardiecks and their employees.
They also placed a priority on educating them about what could happen if they don’t wear a helmet or don’t wear it correctly.
“We really try to take our time with each kid,” Mary Ann said. “And of course, fitting the helmet, that’s a big deal about how you fit the helmet and what it needs to look like, making them understand how you wear it and the things to look for, both parents and kids.”
The law firm always provided handouts from the Brain Injury Association for kids to place in the bags they received at the registration table.
“The whole idea of this is to educate people about brain injury. It’s actually not to give a helmet,” Mary Ann said.
“It’s great when the kids are there with their parents,” she said. “It has been our experience that to enlist those people in the conversation is great. Of course, you’re talking to the kids, as well, but you’re really trying to press upon these people how important it is and why and talking about how brain injury really impacts everybody in a family.”
Mary Ann said she recommends having at least five people to help with the helmet program. They typically hand out around 100 helmets.
She also suggested having a person at the registration tables to sign kids up and direct them to the class, rodeo and helmets.
Garrity said she is working with the middle school to have WiFi access at the registration tables so a volunteer can sign kids up for the class and rodeo.
“We are hoping to have a Google Doc and sign people up as they walk in for each time slot because otherwise, it’s hard to get people there right at the beginning, and then at the very end, we’re out of time and then a lot of people don’t get to go through it,” Garrity said.
When Kids Fest was at the high school, there was one entrance. At the middle school, though, there are two entrances.
“If we can use a Google Doc, then they can sign somebody in and they can each see that, so that’s the plan,” Garrity said.
In recent years, the safety class has been taught by the 4-H Junior Leaders. It’s possible Schneck could have some of its staff involved in the education piece.
“At this time, we are still coordinating with staff,” Furlow said.
Over the years at Kids Fest, Schneck has provided education on sun safety, hand hygiene, diet and nutrition, outdoor safety awareness and more, she said.
The hospital and the Pardiecks are glad the police department will still be involved with the bike rodeo. Mary Ann said Bell Sports provides a discount on the helmets when they are ordered by the police department.
“The police department has been great. That’s just a great partnership. It really is,” she said. “You wouldn’t want to do it without them, and it’s just a neat thing to partner with them. The whole partnership piece of this thing is great.”
Mary Ann also told Garrity, Furlow and Harpe that she would be willing to help if needed.
“I will not just go poof, disappear,” she said. “I’m happy to help you however you want me to.”