FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE — APR. 30, 2013 — Kemi O’Donnell is a woman on a crusade - a crusade in honor of her daughter, Christen O’Donnell, who tragically passed away on August 11th, 1998 at the tender age of 12. Even though her horse was only at a walk, and Christen was wearing a traditional velvet hunt cap, Christen sustained a traumatic brain injury. What O’Donnell did not realize at the time of Christen’s accident was that a hunt cap is simply a piece of apparel.
“Riding is the only sport that makes a piece of apparel that looks like a helmet with a hard shell, but is unapproved and not manufactured for head protection,” said O’Donnell. “People do suffer head injuries and die because manufacturers are putting them out there and making them look like helmets.”
For more than 10 years, O’Donnell has campaigned in an attempt to pass Federal legislation, in Christen’s name to stop the production and sale of all unapproved equestrian "helmets" in the United States. O’Donnell is not trying to force equestrians to wear a helmet or indeed attempt to pass legislation that would make a helmet a requirement. She is simply attempting to protect consumers from making the same mistake that she did, purchasing something that looked like a helmet but was not.
However, despite O’Donnell’s best efforts, Christen's Bill has yet to pass.
It was just over two years ago at the first Riders4Helmets Safety Symposium in Palm Beach, Florida, that O’Donnell first met Roy Burek, managing director of Charles Owen and Burek learned of the death of Christen. By the time of the third Safety Symposium, Burek had decided that he wasn’t going to wait for a law to pass to take matters into his own hands.
“Following our third Safety Symposium together, I received a call from Roy that changed my life,” said O’Donnell. “I couldn't believe my ears when Roy told me of his decision to stop manufacturing hunt caps in North America and to cease selling them on the market in 2013. Something I can honestly say I never thought any helmet manufacturer would be willing to do.”
For over 100 years Charles Owen has been in the business of manufacturing and selling hunt caps around the world, but by the end of 2013 that will no longer be the case. It has always been the tradition of Charles Owen that safety comes first and clearly Burek stands behind his words. O’Donnell is hoping that other manufacturers of hunt caps will follow Burek’s lead.
“If it weren't for the Riders4Helmets Safety Symposiums, I know I would not be writing this today,” said O’Donnell. “Lyndsey White and Dr. Craig Ferrell had a vision, one that I know for certain has saved many, many lives. They believed that if they could create a forum where representatives from all riding disciplines, helmet manufacturers, safety companies, neurosurgeons, retailers, insurance companies, TBI survivors, and people like me, who lost a loved one in an equestrian accident, could gather together and honestly educate each other about the safety concerns in the equestrian world, that change truly could take place. For me, and also for so many others who have attended or watched the video from the symposia, that is exactly what has happened.”
“I will be forever grateful to Roy and Charles Owen for their heroic actions and for Lyndsey and Dr. Ferrell for creating a forum for education and changes to take place. In an article I read about Roy he said, ‘Using one's life to make a real difference in others' lives is what drives me, like my father and grandfather.’ That, I am here to say, he has done for me and for so many others whose lives may be saved by his decision. Thank you Roy for taking the lead and for keeping the promise you made to me that day. You serve as an incredible role model and it is my sincerest hope that others will follow.”
For more information on the Christen O'Donnell Equestrian Helmet Safety Act, visit www.facebook.com/pages/Christen-ODonnell-Equestrian-Helmet-Safety-Act/156758544418267.
Riders4Helmets was founded in early 2010 after Olympic dressage rider Courtney King Dye was seriously injured in a riding accident. King Dye, who remained in a coma for a month following her accident, was not wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and continues to undergo rehabilitation. The goal of the Riders4Helmets Campaign is to educate equestrians on the benefits of wearing a properly fitted and secured, certified helmet.