The Jacksonville Park Foundation and Passavant Area Hospital are partnering with Illinois College Professor Dr. Jeremy Turner to give away helmets to every fourth grade student in Jacksonville.

The Protect the Melon! campaign encourages youth to wear a helmet when biking, roller skating, riding a scooter, skateboarding or any other “wheeled” activity. “The importance of wearing a helmet has been shown to save lives and protect against brain injuries,” said Dr. Turner. “Being active is essential to being a healthy child, and with that comes falls and tumbles.”

Illinois College psychology students have been presenting the brain awareness program and giving away bicycle helmets to fourth graders at Lincoln Elementary for a number of years. Jacksonville Park Foundation founding board member Harry Ford had the idea to expand the program to all the schools in the community. Passavant has agreed to provide proceeds from the May 31 Passavant-Powerade 5K and 10K Race to provide helmets for all 350-plus fourth graders in Jacksonville public and private schools.

Dr Helmet and Illinois College students in front of trailer

Illinois College’s (from left) Ashley Lanzara, Doug Allgaier and Amanda Jones helped “Dr. Helmet” Dr. Joseph Cangas drop off a load of helmets at Illinois College recently. Helmets will be given away to Jacksonville fourth graders to Protect the Melon!


On Thursday, April 17, Illinois College students will travel to District 117 schools to give a lesson on how the brain works, show how a melon with and without a helmet fares when hitting the pavement, and distribute the helmets. Distribution to Our Saviour School, Salem Lutheran School, Westfair Christian Academy and Illinois School for the Deaf will be at a later date.

Links, tips and information on being a Melonhead is available at

The Jacksonville Park Foundation is working with the Pilot Club, Helmets First!, the Illinois College Psychology Club and others in the community to fund the program for future years. Contact Foundation President Steve Warmowski via to help. Community members can also take part in a Town Brook 5k and fun run, bike rides and nature walk during the Fourth Annual Downtown Celebration on May 17th, or attend performances of the Ken Bradbury play Brook Tales May 17 at Grace UMC and May 18 at Centenary UMC, to support the project.

The Jacksonville Park Foundation focuses on health, recreation and families. Volunteers in the group have started several initiatives to improve the quality of life in the Jacksonville community such as promoting youth health, a Town Brook recreational trail, park enhancements, healthy food and a SEED 2.0 environmental education club revival. The foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt charitable organization and is solely reliant on private funding.

You can contribute by making a check out to Jacksonville Park Foundation and mailing to Laura Marks/JPF Treasurer, Jacksonville Savings Bank, 1211 W. Morton Ave., Jacksonville, IL 62650.