After the death of 16-year-old Hank Woodhall in a skateboarding accident last month, Forest Hills police Chief Chuck Williams set out to see if he could secure helmets for children and teens without them.
To his surprise, it took only a phone call to Christine Vitale, injury prevention manager for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.
As a result, Forest Hills police have secured 150 skateboarding helmets through the "Hard Heads" program. Williams plans to distribute some of the helmets at the borough's hayride on Oct. 20 and also have some in police cars for officers to distribute if they see youths skateboarding without helmets.
Officer Brian Armstrong noted the hayride is from 6-9 p.m. at the Westinghouse Recreation Center on Barclay Avenue, just off Greensburg Pike.
"We've been providing helmets to the kids and teens in our region for the past seven years through a grant from Kohl's Cares, the funder of our 'Kohl's Safety Initiatives' at Children's Hopsital of Pittsburgh of UPMC," Vitale said.
"It’s important for skateboarders and all kids/teens on wheels to wear helmets because helmets can prevent more than 85 percent of head injuries," Vitale said. "The older kids move faster and although they may be really good at their skill, they can’t control everything in the environment."
She said stones on the ground, other vehicles and other riders may contribute to accidents and if a skateboarder crashes, the faster they are moving the worse the outcome will be.
"Also, little kids, with little skill are watching the big kids," Vitale said. "I think the older kids have a great responsibility to pass on a good message to the kids they are role modeling for."
At Children’s Hospital, about 8 percent of the trauma admissions to the hospital are kids who are injured when on wheels and the most serious injuries are head injuries.
Hank, a student at Woodland Hills High School, wasn’t wearing a helmet when he hit his head on the pavement along Fairview Avenue in Chalfant as he was riding down the hill Sept. 20. Friends said he had been riding the RipStik, which is a cross between a skateboard and a snowboard with two wheels. After brain surgery was unsuccessful, he was taken off life support and died Sept. 22.