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Center Foundation uses melons to show kids the importance of protecting their heads.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Third graders at Buff Elementary listen to a helmet safety program presented by the Center Foundation. The students learned how to properly put on a helmet, and, with the help of dropped melons, saw how important a helmet is for head safety.Third graders at Buff Elementary learned about the importance of wearing a helmet, with the help of a few melons, and received free helmets and helmet fittings on Friday.

The program, Train Your Brain, a program from the Center Foundation in Bend, teaches third graders how to make sure their helmet sits properly on their head and why they need to make sure they wear one.

"It's a perfect time to reach them," said Sonja Donohue, executive director for the Center Foundation. She said it is impossible to reach every grade and third graders are able to retain information well and when they get into high school where the foundation has their sports medicine program and trainers for each school, the kids will recall the center visiting them in third grade.

Donohue also said that third grade is when students begin to get more active and participate in action sports, like riding a bike.

During the program, third graders are gathered and given information about helmet safety, but the program is meant to be engaging and fun for the students. Perhaps the most memorable and exciting part of the program for the kids involves — of all things — melons.

The demonstrator takes two melons, using them as an example of a head that the helmet protects. One melon is placed in a helmet and strapped in, while the other is left as-is. Both melons are dropped onto the hard floor. The melon in the helmet has protection and it stays intact, however the one left alone cracks and splatters apart, with pieces scattered everywhere.

While the program really began over 20 years ago, when a brain surgeon at the center knew about a child that had a fatal accident while not wearing a helmet, according to Donohue, the program in its current form was formed about four years ago.

That's when the program was able to get sponsors and began working with all of the elementary schools in Bend and La Pine; two years later it got another sponsor and was able to expand and work with all of the elementary schools — 30 in total — across Central Oregon.

The sponsors make it possible for the program to provide helmets to each third grader who needs one within those schools.

Following the presentation, students are taught how to make sure their helmet fits properly and the program leaders help students adjust their helmets.

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