Ellijay Police provide free bicycle helmets to children
Officer Mike Ware was patrolling the streets of Ellijay on a newly issued Harley-Davidson Road King March 28, when he noticed some serious violations of the law; a child was riding her bicycle without a helmet.
“What he did next exemplifies the core values of the Ellijay Police Department and makes me tremendously proud,” said Chief Edward Lacey.
“Out of all the options available to him, ignoring the issue or even making the child push her bike home, he went that extra mile.”
Officer Ware went to the local bike store and using his own money, purchased a bicycle helmet. He then tracked down the child and gave her the helmet. But he was not finished.
Earlier in 2017, Detective Doug Colburn joined the Ellijay Police as a detective with the dual role of investigating crime, as well as being a community relations officer. Officer Ware approached Detective Colburn with his ideas and observations, and together they devised a two-pronged scheme.
They first approached Dondi Fontenot, the owner of the Cartecay Bike Shop on North Main Street and pitched their idea to him and found he was “all in.”
Then they partnered with the Gilmer County Optimist Club for funding, and the program was officially alive.
“Dondi works with his suppliers to get the helmets at below cost, and the Optimist Club provides funds for the helmets. The Cartecay Bike Shop pays for the taxes on the helmets. It’s billed as the Optimists’ Club and Ellijay Police Bike Program,” says Detective Colburn.
Lacey said, “The end result is a joint effort in our community which enables police officers in the city to meet a real need. This is how communities are really supposed to be.”
In today’s society, law enforcement officers are struggling to demonstrate that they truly love the people they serve, and they really want to make a difference in people’s lives.
“We want to be approachable, and we truly desire for children to know they can run to us if they are in trouble or need help,” says Lacey.
“The Bike Shop and the Optimists have done more here than they know. Yes, they are making children safer, but it is so much more than that. They have given our police officers something that they can feel real good about doing. Officers are able to approach and make relationships with the children. Instead of being the ‘bad guy’ telling them they are breaking the rules — the children see the officers for what they really are — men and women who love them. In July, when an officer gave a helmet to a child, he said, ‘I’ve always wanted a helmet …’ implying that the officer had met a true need and desire in the life of that child.”
Since the program’s inception this year, Ellijay Police officers have given away twelve helmets and expect to give away many more than that as the program grows.
Anyone in the community wishing to help with the success of this program may contact Detective Doug Colburn at 706-635-7430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.