On Thursday, school officials received 50 helmets and $1,000 to buy more from Birmingham law firm Cory Watson Crowder & DeGaris.
“We are pleased to support Cordova Elementary School’s helmet drive and encourage others to join us in helping our schools and communities raise awareness of the importance of weather preparedness,” said Ernest Cory, a shareholder at the firm.
Retired kindergarten teacher Sabra Brown started the helmet drive in August 2011, four months after two tornadoes devastated the city and claimed four lives. A CES student was among those killed.
The 50 helmets delivered on Thursday left the school 125 helmets short of the 355 that are needed to cover every student in kindergarten through fourth grades.
When Cory learned of the gap, he wrote a check for the purchase of the remaining helmets.
CES Principal Dianne Williams said the firm learned of the school’s need from a TV news story that aired in May.
Williams said the original goal was to collect 400 helmets, which would cover any enrollment increases in the future.
“We’ll have to switch them (the helmets) around from year to year because we may have more third graders next year than this year, for example. As long as we get around 400, we will be fine and will have extras for our teachers as well,” Williams said.
The donation coincided with Severe Weather Awareness Week, which is recognized Feb. 16 through 21.
The Birmingham law firm has given away more than 2,000 bicycle helmets through its Helmets for Kids program in the past three years.
Brown said the first donation of helmets came from city officials who had pulled old athletic equipment out of Cordova City Hall, one of the structures severely damaged in the April 2011 tornadoes.
Brown took on the responsibility of cleaning up those helmets and dozens of others that have been donated over the past three years.
Students and staff have been supportive of the program since its inception.
“We always announce their name over the intercom when they bring a helmet. They get excited about that,” Williams said.
Helmets have come from yard sales, thrift stores and even the local pizza parlor.
“The other night, I went to pick up a pizza at Mojos and came back with pizza and a helmet,” Brown said.
In 2012, the UAB Injury Control Research Center published research suggesting that helmets are essential to severe weather preparation.
ICRC director Dr. Gerald McGwin noted that a motorcycle helmet with a face shield would provide the most protection, but any helmet would be better than none at all.
Alabama is the nationwide leader in tornado-related deaths, with 412 fatalities recorded since 1980.
According to the Jefferson County medical examiner’s office, at least 11 of the 21 fatalities in the county on April 27, 2011, resulted from head or neck injuries.
“The use of helmets is a cheap, easily accessible strategy that can help save lives, and we urge all people living in tornado-prone areas to include suitable safety helmets in their tornado-preparation materials,” McGwin said.