The memory is seared in Anaheim Fire Chief Randy Bruegman’s memory.
He was working as a captain in Ft. Collins Colorado when he came across a young boy, maybe 8 or 9 years old. The boy had been riding his bike when he took a spill and hit his head against the curb.
“He had life-changing injuries,” Bruegman said. “You look at something like that, and you think if he were wearing a helmet he probably would have had a few bruises, brushed himself off and went home. To see the devastating impact that injury had on him and his family always stuck with me.”
Bruegman has used that experience to advocate for bike helmet safety in every department he’s worked at since including Anaheim, where he spearheaded the “Wear Your Helmet Like a Pro” program.
Bruegman has some help. The Anaheim Fire & Rescue team engaged the Fireman’s Fund insurance company, Southern California Gas, the Disneyland Resort, and the Angels and Ducks sports franchises to get the word out on helmet safety.
Disney jumped on board and designed the promotional package and produced a Public Service Announcement, and Angel Catcher Hank Conger and Anaheim Duck Cam Fowler lent their sponsorship power as well.
“It’s been a great partnership between public safety and our three largest corporate agencies,” Bruegman said.
The program urges kids to wear helmets for safety, but also thanks to grant money, kids without the financial means can get a helmet for free by visiting their local fire station in Anaheim.
With Anaheim being the third department Bruegman’s worked with, he estimates he has distributed 15,000 to 20,000 helmets.
In one instance while he was working in Oregon, a mother came in to get a new helmet for her son.
“The helmet she was turning in had a giant, half-inch gash on the side of it,” Bruegman said, noting that the boy probably didn’t even realize how lucky he was. “I’d like to think we’ve saved a few kids from injuries.”