In my experience in professional rodeo, contestants have been so non-judgmental of my choice to wear a helmet. They truly act like I’m not any different. I have made countless life-long friends and am always welcomed with a smile and a hello from contestants, judges, announcers, committee crews, you name it. I feel comfortable in whatever I wear and I feel like I’m part of the family. They’ve made it that way, and I’m proud to be involved in that kind of industry filled with those kinds of people.
That’s why I was always shocked to read emails, messages and stories from young girls about the torment that they have suffered from others simply because they wore a helmet. They would always thank me for being an inspiration and for wearing my helmet, as they had someone to look up to while they were being made fun of. I got these types of letters way too frequently over the years, and that’s why when On the Rodeo Road (a super cool online magazine that you should be following) contacted me to write an article about helmets, I was more than willing. They were experiencing first hand the challenges of making the “helmet-switch” and thought it would be great to give their readers some insight too.
I didn’t know what I wanted to write about, all I knew is I didn’t want to go the typical “here are the statistics” and “this is why you should wear your helmet” route. Everyone’s heard those and if you Google it, you’ll find a hundred of articles all saying the same thing. I also realized that there really isn’t an argument on if you should or shouldn’t wear a helmet--I found that out years ago in that high school class.
What I wanted to know was why are riders knowingly risking their life and/or livelihood instead of putting on a helmet. To find out, I posted a survey and in 48 hours I had 440+ responses. Personal stories about why people wear helmets and stories and reasons why people don’t wear helmets. Personal stories about people wanting to put their safety first, but not doing so for fear of the judgments that would be made against them. Personal stories from young girls being teased for wearing a helmet and not being able to wait until their old enough to lose it. Personal stories about loved ones dying from head trauma. Real stories.
I realized that one article is not going to cover this. Then I realized not even a series of articles can cover this. This is an every day battle to eliminate the stigma associated with wearing helmets so people who want to put one on, can and feel comfortable in doing so. This is an every day battle to inform the people who think all helmets are uncomfortable, heavy, and cumbersome--that they aren’t. This is a battle to change the hearts of those who are doing the teasing and casting the harsh judgments. This is a battle to make people choose doing what is right over fitting in.
And that is how an article request evolved into something way bigger--HelmetTough.
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"HelmetTough-How it Began" Copyrighted by Nicole Aichele & HelmetTough, 2014. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for reprinting rights.