Heartbreak to helmets: Bicycle Safety Day’s goal to protect cyclists

Thirty years have passed since Keith Froning’s baseball team last assembled — ever since a bicycle accident took Keith’s life.

Keith’s mother, Marlene Froning, took the opportunity this weekend to surprise the team and bring them together again.

Team members and coaches were given specially designed t-shirts with a drawn rendition of Keith’s baseball picture from 1983 on the back as they all came together Saturday for the first time in 30 years during the fifth annual Bicycle Safety Day at the Auglaize County Fairgrounds.

The shirts had the original Jets logo, along with Keith’s picture. There also was a logo for Andy Gould, another team member who died young, on the sleeve of the shirt.

Froning said the team provided her with special memories. Keith drove in the winning run in the Jets playoff victory before being killed in the car-bicycle crash the next day.

The team gave Keith the game ball from the game for getting the game-winning hit, something that Marlene

Froning said she still has to this day.

Ever since, Froning has made bicycle safety her passion to make sure children are equipped with bicycle helmets so no mother has to go through what she did.

Froning puts hundreds of hours into the annual event in an effort to encourage safety.

“Overall it went well and it was a good day,” Froning said. “It is all about putting helmets on the children. They can also learn something about safety and it makes them wiser on the roadways, which in turn also makes it safer for the drivers.”

Attendees started out getting fitted for a free bicycle helmet, and then took part in a bicycle rodeo in which they learned various safety measures such as reading road signs and crossing railroad tracks.

The annual event spearheaded by Froning puts helmets on approximately 200 children each year in the area.

After participating in the rodeo, children got to meet members of the UNOH race team, as well as race car drivers John Mills and Jerry Bowersock.

Mills thrilled many children with his story of a serious crash that resulted in a brain injury when he was driving. He showed kids his helmet and told them if he had not had it on, he would not be here today.

One child said she planned on wearing her new helmet every time she was on her bike. She smiled as she displayed her new blue helmet on her head.

“I will make sure I always put it on,” 10-year old Davita Hoelscher said. “I learned a lot about today about watching out for things.”

Eight-year old Hope Alig said she had a lot of fun.

“It was a lot of fun getting a new helmet and riding our bikes at the rodeo,” Hope said.