Kristen Almer of Phoenix, Arizona, knows the hurt of losing a family member to an all-terrain vehicle crash.
“In 2013, my 11-year-old nephew was killed on an ATV in Washburn County,” Almer said. “He got on an adult-size ATV without a helmet, and he literally killed himself within minutes.”
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Almer’s nephew was operating at a high rate of speed on private property in Minong when he lost control and the ATV overturned, resulting in fatal head injuries.
As a sponsorship consultant in the powersports industry for the last 30 years, Almer said she was doing research about 1½ years ago for one of her projects when she ran across a press release written by the Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ROHVA) one day before her nephew, Logan, was killed May 24, 2013. The release listed eight things that should and should not be done on an ATV.
“My nephew got six of them wrong,” she said.
“That particular press release, when I ran across it, I thought … here I am getting that press release five years too late,” Almer said. “I realized, in that moment, my nephew had never gotten the message. At that point, I just decided to do something.”
That something is Let’s Ride, a powersports safety program, on Thursday, Sept. 12, at Superior Middle School.
It’s a chance to meet star powersports athletes like "Everyone's Favorite RedNek" Hubert Rowland of Nitro Circus and snocross star Levi LaVallee. Kids can learn the important of safety equipment and best practices from the ATV Safety Institute and ROHVA-certified safety instructors.
FXR will be on-site to show people how to properly fit a helmet, and Duluth Lawn and Sport will bring equipment to show the difference in sizes for adult and children’s ATVs, Almer said. There will be people there to talk about snowmobile safety, too, she said. Douglas County Recreation Officer Jake Engleman and some of his staff will also be there to answer questions.
There will be promotional giveaways and chances to meet up for autographs and selfies. Rowland’s cross-country adventure vehicles will be on display.
“We wanted to bring this program directly to kids,” Almer said.
She said while safety is a priority in the powersports industry, and athletes always gear up when they compete, it’s information that largely stays within the industry.
“My position is kids are encountering this equipment because they know somebody or they have a family member who has it, or maybe they go to a friend’s vacation property,” Almer said. “My realization was that while there is all this effort, no one is speaking to kids.”
That motivated her to develop the program in collaboration with people in the powersports industry.
The first time the program was offered was last year, at Logan’s school in Minong.
“We put helmets on 336 kids’ heads that day, which was really a big objective for us,” Almer said. “What we have found is, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, there have been 3,315 fatalities for children under the age of 16 from 1982 to 2017. That’s a really big number. That’s more kids than the number of people killed in the World Trade Center.”
She said for every five fatalities on an ATV, one of them is a child younger than 16. In 90% of those deaths, children were not wearing helmets and 95% did not have safety certification, she said.
“I just know that if I can just get people to wear a helmet, and if I can just get them to take a safety certified training course online, that the chances of them being catastrophically injured or fatality injured in an ATV accident significantly goes down,” Almer said.
She said the event isn’t just for kids or people who use powersports equipment.
“If you have children, if you know children or if you were a kid once, you should be there because it’s an opportunity to learn,” Almer said of the program she plans to take national and make an annual event in the city where she grew up, Superior.
“We want Superior to be that community where we can say, 'We made a difference,’” Almer said.
If you go
Let's Ride Powersport Safety Program
What: Meet powersports athletes; learn about powersports safety equipment and safety tips.
Where: Superior Middle School, 3626 Hammond Ave.
When: Thursday, Sept. 12, 3:30-6:30 p.m.
More info: letsrideamerica.com