Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

GRTA donates helmets to promote safety


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Wakefield — As part of an effort to promote safe riding in the region, the Gogebic Range Trail Authority recently donated helmets to kids without the proper gear.

“It was one of the most rewarding things I think I’ve done with our club to date,” said GRTA President Steve Hamilton. “Some of these kids, the way they looked at some of these helmets, it was like it was the coolest thing they now owned.”

The club donated 17 helmets and goggles to nine families at an event Thursday, according to Hamilton, in the first round of helmet give-aways.

Hamilton said he initially proposed the idea of donating the safety equipment at a GRTA board meeting in April.

“I live in Wakefield, and I’m a Michigan DNR-certified ORV instructor. I sit in my living room and I’m watching side-by-sides and off-road vehicles go through town, and I’m seeing tons and tons of kids with no helmets on,” Hamilton said. He said he thought back to riding as a kid when it was an activity the whole family could do together outside and his parents used whatever helmets they could find

“Whether it was the right size or not, it met the legal requirement to go ride,” Hamilton said.

The club partnered with the Hurley-Ironwood Rotary Club to fund the project between the two organizations.

Hamilton said it’s a common misconception that those under the age of 16 don’t always have to wear a helmet when out riding. The confusion may stem from the rule that those over the age of 16 don’t have to wear a helmet if they are in a side-by-side if they are buckled in and protected by a roll cage.

“That’s a giant misconception locally,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people automatically assume that is the same for anybody under 16.”

He said, in Michigan, anyone under the age of 16 is required to wear a helmet — regardless of whether using an ATV or side-by-side.

Along with the helmets and goggles, families also received a GRTA membership, information on safe riding and other laws and various goodies for the kids.

Hamilton said Thursday’s donation event was also an opportunity for the club to engage with residents and riders they are connecting with for the first time.

Hamilton said families are asked not to sell or barter the donated helmets outside of Gogebic, Ontonagon or Iron County, Wisconsin once the wearer grows out of them.

“We want the helmets to stay here. Our goal is if somebody grows out of their helmet size next year, they go on one of the many Facebook marketplace groups and goes, ‘Hey, I have this helmet, I’m looking for this size, does somebody have one they can trade me?’” Hamilton said. “We really just want to inject our local community with that high-quality safety gear so that it stays here and it becomes this nice little exchange program, almost like they do at the start of ski season with the ski swaps.”

Families also need to pay $1 for the GRTA membership, which covers them during a work day the club is planning in the coming weeks.

“All GRTA members are covered under our volunteer medical injury insurance,” Hamilton said.

The club still has some helmets left to donate, according to Hamilton, and is accepting applications for the program through Friday.

Hamilton would like to continue the program further, but with the coronavirus pandemic limiting the club’s fundraising ability, it may not be possible without additional donations.

The application and information on the helmet donation program is pinned at the top of the GRTA’s Facebook page. Completed applications can be emailed to [email protected].

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