Rhodes senior Radhika Puri has created a helmet safety program in partnership with Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. During her junior year at White Station High School in Memphis, TN, Puri suffered a traumatic head injury after falling off her bicycle. She was not wearing a helmet and as a result of her injuries, underwent care in Memphis and Atlanta hospitals. She missed nine weeks of her junior year in high school.
Puri eventually recovered, and during her senior year learned about Rhodes’ Clarence Day Scholarship Program, which requires students to complete a service, research, or fellowship project in addition to meeting the college’s rigorous academic standards. She was awarded the scholarship and for her project came up with the idea to educate local youth on bike, helmet, and road safety. Puri connected with Susan A. Helms, director of injury prevention at Le Bonheur, during her junior year at Rhodes, and after sharing her story with her, was able to design a fellowship with the hospital’s injury prevention program.
“I do honestly believe that everything happens for a reason, and my personal story has really shaped what I have done to advocate helmet and road safety since my experience,” says Puri. “To have a traumatic head injury and return to normal in two months is practically unheard of. I am so blessed and thankful and wanted to use my story to inspire others. Wearing a helmet should not be taken lightly, ever!”
Le Bonheur’s trauma data reveals that from 2010 to the present more than 300 youth have sustained serious head injuries due to bicycle accidents. Only a few were wearing a helmet. As part of Puri’s fellowship at the hospital, she has been analyzing traumatic brain injury data to promote safe habits for children, such as following the rules of the road and helmet safety. She also helped organize events for elementary school students promoting road safety.
Last spring, the Memphis Greenline, The Peddler Bike Shop, the Millington Optimist Club and Le Bonheur hosted a Bike Rodeo for more than 100 Memphis children as a fun way to educate them about bicycle safety. Funding was provided by the Clarence Day Scholarship. The rodeo included a helmet-fitting station and an obstacle course designed to teach safe bike riding. The rodeo also provided a platform for Puri to share her story. “Kids are more likely to listen to someone closer in age, versus someone like mom and dad telling them to wear a helmet. I feel like I made an impact on the lives of many young children.”
To continue the program’s success, Puri and Helms were awarded a community engagement grant from Arts Memphis and The Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc. They have worked with Memphis College of Art to create a coloring and activity book titled Radhika Takes a Ride!, which tells her story.
“With graduation from Rhodes College and the completion of her fellowship experience approaching, I wanted to be able to create something that would continue to tell Radhika’s story,” says Helms. “We both thought that a coloring and activity book would be an excellent way to engage young readers with Radhika’s powerful message and would appeal to children of all ages.”
At Rhodes, Puri is pursuing a major in biology and minor in business with the goal of working in health care. “The college has always stressed making connections with organizations in Memphis, and I have fostered a relationship that will continue beyond my graduation,” she says. After graduation, Puri is headed to Washington D.C. to work in health care communications consulting.
By Lizzie Choy ’17
Radhika Puri signs her coloring and activity book. Also view her interview on WREG/CBS-TV.