The idea for Aultman Health Foundation’s Safety First program sprouted in 2005 from a brainstorming session with Aultman CEO Edward J. Roth III. Along with giving the students helmets, Aultman believed it was important to educate the students on bicycle safety and rules. A 25-minute class was developed that could be taught by two volunteer employees using an educational coloring and activity book titled Practice Bike Safety to cover many topics: avoid riding on the street whenever possible, watch for traffic, use appropriate hand signals and obey traffic signs – to name a few.
After the safety education portion of the class, each student was surprised with a free bicycle helmet that the Aultman employees made sure fit correctly. Lastly, each student received a letter from Aultman President and CEO, Ed Roth, addressed to parents and guardians emphasizing the importance of safety and encouraging them to reinforce safety guidelines with the child to prevent injuries.
When the program began in 2005, Aultman partnered with the six elementary schools surrounding Aultman Hospital’s main campus. The program continued in this capacity for 2006. With community feedback so overwhelming, in 2007, our executive team wanted to expand the partnership to reach out to all 16 Canton City elementary schools and two local private schools. The employee response was overwhelming. So positive, that in 2008, Aultman was ready to meet the challenge of expanding to all first-grade classes at all public and private schools in Stark County. Each year since 2008, classes continued to be taught to all the first graders in Stark County and even expanded to include a few more classes to first graders in the adjacent county, Carroll County, as well as Orrville City Schools.
In 2018, we visited 70 schools and taught approximately 190 classes, distributing approximately 5,000 helmets. This project is possible through the efforts of our generous employee volunteers, more than 400 strong!