$25,000 grant expands youth biking and trauma program

McLaren Oakland and the McLaren Oakland Foundation are the beneficiaries of nearly $25,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Bureau of EMS, Trauma & Preparedness to expand the hospital's Safe Wheels and Heels program.

First piloted in 2008, Safe Wheels and Heels promotes bicycle safety among second graders in Pontiac and Oxford school districts.

The goal of the program is to educate young students on biking safety while also assisting them in developing safe bicycle habits, leading to a less emergency visits to McLaren Oakland's verified level II trauma center after bicycle accidents.

Funding began on Sept. 1 and will continue to Aug. 31, 2017.

"With the funding from the MDHHS Bureau of EMS, Trauma & Preparedness, we plan on providing helmets and safety education, including a 911 simulator, to school districts beyond Pontiac and Oxford," said Courtney Berry, trauma program manager at McLaren Oakland. "Since we have worked with AAA to pilot test a safe driving program earlier this year, we will also purchase a distracted driving simulator module and use it to educate teenage drivers in our local schools."

Five- to 14-year old children visit emergency departments for bike-related injuries more than any other type of injury. After launching the program, the number of 6- to 10-year-olds presenting to the McLaren Oakland emergency department for bike-related injuries has decreased by 40 percent.

During the program, which is held in May, students are fitted with bike helmets and are taught proper bicycle and pedestrian safety, "stranger danger," and when and how to properly call 911.

"We envision a future where there are no bicycle-related childhood injuries in Pontiac, Oxford or in Oakland County overall," said Jennifer Thamer, executive director of the McLaren Oakland Foundation. "With help from this grant, we believe this dream can become a reality."

To learn more about emergency medicine and trauma care at McLaren Oakland, visit mclaren.org/oaklandtrauma.