Summer weather means lots of fun is to be had. Trips to the pool, time at the beach and some good ole’ fashioned fun like riding bikes. Every time my kids want to ride their bikes (which lately is almost daily), I cringe a little bit. They know the rules—wear a helmet, always and watch for cars. But it still makes me nervous because accidents can and do happen. I breathe a big sigh of relief when they walk in through the garage door and I can see their smiling, sweaty faces.

It’s amazing and scary to see how many people ride their bikes without helmets. I get that they’re not the most comfortable and might mess up your hair but a cracked skull will give you bad hair days for weeks and will be downright painful, if you even survive. Maybe people don’t realize how important helmets are and that they can save a life. Maybe people don’t think it’ll happen to them.

Before I could even ride a bike, I learned that hard truth. My grandpa was an avid cyclist and rode dozens of miles at a time. One summer day, 30 years ago, he went for a short ride and didn’t wear his helmet—even though he usually did.

That was his last bike ride.

Maybe a helmet could have saved his life. Maybe not. We’ll never know, but I’m willing to bet, if my grandpa knew how that ride was going to end, I’m sure he would have grabbed that helmet. It was a tragic accident. I share this story often with friends because I don’t want my grandpa’s death to be in vain. I want people to remember his story and put on a helmet before they go for a bike ride.

My kids never got to know their great grandpa but they’ve all heard stories about him. They know he was an artist and that his face scratched mine when he hugged me with his whiskers. They also know why they have to wear a helmet every time they go for a bike ride.

About a month ago, my son was riding his bike in our neighborhood, when my phone rang. I knew it was my son. I told myself everything was OK, that he simply wanted to let me know which friend’s house he was playing at. Except he wasn’t completely OK. I heard him crying, trying to catch his breath and begging for help. He had a bike accident. In those few minutes when I was driving in my van looking for him, I was panicking not knowing what to expect. Luckily, he was wearing his helmet—I didn’t even have to ask. I knew it was something he did and that gave me some peace. I don’t even want to think what could have happened had he been without his helmet. Maybe he would’ve sustained the same injuries. Or maybe it would have been so much worse than it was.

If you’re getting your child a bike for her birthday, make sure you include a helmet, too. If your family does family bike rides, make sure everyone is outfitted in a helmet—mom and dad, too. Please don’t dismiss this, thinking it won’t happen to you. I’m sure that was the furthest thing from my grandpa’s mind on that tragic summer day, 30 years ago. My son didn’t set out this summer expecting to be hurt in a bike accident. But, accidents happen every day.

Alissa Kay

Alissa was born and raised in the Midwest and currently calls Wisconsin home. She's happily married to her college sweetheart and she's living out her dreams of being a stay-at-home mom. Although, let's be real, she's hardly ever home. She's the mom to 3 kids who all came to her via adoption. A boy (8) and 2 girls (6 and almost 4!). The kids keep her plenty busy, but when she has free time she enjoys a night out with friends or curling up with a good book.