Like many great stories, ours started with an “Aha!” moment.
One fall day in 1993, Jimmy Vissage was on his way home from work. On his car radio, Dr. C. Everett Koop was discussing the number one killer of American youth—unintentional accidents.
When he heard this, Jimmy was concerned and surprised. So when he learned that Safe Kids (a national organization dedicated to protecting kids from unintentional injuries) was holding a seminar in Columbia, South Carolina, he decided to attend.
The topics included bicycle safety and helmets. As an avid cyclist, Jimmy was compelled by the importance of helmets in protecting children from avoidable bike accidents.
A few months later, Jimmy read an article about the Jaycees, who were reconditioning bicycles to give to children at the Salvation Army’s Boys & Girls Club for Christmas. With information from the Safe Kids seminar still on his mind, he wondered whether the children also received helmets.
That’s when it all came together—the radio interview, the safety seminar, and now, a local need.
A TRUE COMMUNITY EFFORT
Anyone who knows Jimmy can attest to the fact that he has a perpetual sense of forward momentum. Unsurprisingly, he took action.
First, he reached out to the Boys & Girls Club, who in turn gave him a contact for the Jaycees. Jimmy offered to raise money to provide a helmet to each child who got a bike. Next, he called fellow cyclist Joe Sullivan, and together, they reached out to the Greenville Spinners Bicycle Club for additional support.
Shortly after their first helmet fundraising success, the Greenville Spinners Bicycle Club board opted to form a safety committee. Initial members included Jimmy Vissage, Sally Nicholson, Jesse Tate, Darcy Stewart, Eddie Shirley, Kelby Beezer, and Donna Sheppard (Pusty). Jesse suggested they put Jimmy in charge.
Within a couple of years, Safe Kids formed a chapter in the Upstate. Jimmy was asked to represent the Club and field bicycle requests and questions for Safe Kids. Bell Sports also partnered with the local chapter to provide discounted helmets.
Then, in 1997, Maureen White spearheaded the effort to incorporate the Greenville Spinners Bicycle Safety Foundation as a separate eleemosynary organization with true 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. To this day, it remains a prominent fixture of the Greenville cycling community.
THE LEGACY CONTINUES
To date, in almost 30 years of service and with Spinners members lending a hand along the way, the Greenville Spinners Bicycle Safety Foundation has given away nearly 15,000 helmets and conducted numerous safety clinics, bike rodeos, helmet fittings, and community health fairs.
By providing helmets and other safety equipment to children as well as adults from underserved communities, the Safety Foundation has helped prevent injuries and save lives — all because one man decided to make a difference.