LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- With less than a week left before summer break begins, more than 300 students at Portland Elementary School were surprised with free bicycle helmets from the Brain Injury Alliance of Kentucky on Monday.

The gift of the helmets was made possible by an anonymous donor at the Brain Injury Alliance's Brain Ball fundraiser last fall and the decision was made to donate to Portland because 98 percent of students come from low-income families.

In addition to the helmets, all students were entered into a drawing and six bicycles that had been donated by community members and Portland Elementary staff were given away Monday as well.

Chell Austin, executive director of the Brain Injury Alliance, said the need to wear a helmet when participating in bicycling, skate boading or roller skating and other activities can't be stressed enough.

"Brain injuries can happen in an instant, and they can be debilitating for those who suffer from them, often for life," Audtin said. "But brain injuries are preventable, and wearing a helmet is one of the easiest and most important things to do to keep them from happening. If these helmets help prevent one child from suffering an injury, then we have done our job.”

The Brain Injury Alliance is a non-profit whose mission is to serve Kentucky residents whose lives have been affected by a brain injury with advocacy, service and support, as well as educate the public about brain injuries and prevention.

Along with their new helmet, each student will receive a gift bag from UofL Physicians, KentuckyOne Health and the Brain Injury Alliance with stickers to personalize their helmet and make it fun to wear, a squishable ball in the shape of a brain, and information for their parents on preventing brain injuries and other health matters. 

Portland elementary principal Angela Hosch said she is so thankful for the gift of the helmets.

“Many of our students' parents may not have the means to get them a helmet, or to take them to get one and have it properly fitted," she said. "In addition to keeping our students safe, we hope this will encourage them to take up healthy outdoor activities over the summer.”

Hosch said students' nutrition needs and physical health needs are just as important as their academic needs.

"And a lot of our students have deficits in all three areas and part of our role is to give them tools to keep up their nutrition, physical health and academic needs not just during the school year but during the summer as well," she said.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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