The Liberty Lake Police Department recently received a donation of 45 children’s bicycle helmets from Marissa’s Lids for Kids.
The helmets will be distributed throughout the summer, said Liberty Lake police Chief Brian Asmus. Officers hand out coupons for a free ice cream cone to children spotted wearing helmets, and it will be simple enough to hand out helmets to those who don’t have them, he said.
“We can just give them one on the spot,” Asmus said.
In years past the local Kiwanis groups would donate bike helmets but that stopped a few years ago, Asmus said, and he’s been trying to find a new source for the safety equipment. Retired Spokane police officer Tom Sahlberg, who now lives in Liberty Lake, helped make the connection to Marissa’s Lids for Kids.
“I noticed that kids weren’t wearing helmets,” Sahlberg said.
Having children wear helmets is important to Sahlberg. Several years ago two children on bikes were in a crash in Spokane and one died, Sahlberg said. Neither was wearing a helmet. Sahlberg notified the father of his child’s death, and the experience stayed with him.
Marissa’s Lids for Kids is a nonprofit organization run out of West Central Community Center by Lorrie and Dan Engle, who named the organization after their 5-year-old granddaughter who died in a bicycle accident six years ago.
“She didn’t have a helmet on and hit the back of her head,” Lorrie Engle said.
She and her husband launched the nonprofit five years ago, and she estimates they have given away between 500 and 600 helmets. Many are distributed right in West Central, where Marissa lived, while others are given away at community events as far away as Rockford and Spangle.
“Spring is our busiest time,” Engle said. “All people have to do is contact us and say they have a need.”
The nonprofit has returned to some events multiple times over the years. “We got a lot of kids who give us big smiles and say, ‘You gave me one last year,’” she said. She plans to keep Marissa’s Lids for Kids going as long as she can.
“We’ve just been really excited that it’s lasted so long, because it’s supported by donations,” she said.
People can donate to the group through the West Central Community Center’s website at westcentralcc.org as long as donors indicate that the donation is for Marissa’s Lids for Kids.
Asmus said he plans to have helmets available at an upcoming bike rodeo and safety fair planned for later this summer, as well as other public events. Anyone who needs a helmet can also stop by the police station at 23127 E. Mission Ave., he said.
Engle, who has five children and 26 grandchildren, said she is happy to be able to help children have fun safely in her granddaughter’s name.
“It’s the good that came out of the bad,” she said. “It helps keep her memory. One of the biggest motivators for me is how much this has helped my grandkids move forward.”