It is every parent’s nightmare for a child to experience a traumatic injury, whether from sports or simply playing outside. Olivia Keith, 11 year old founder of Play it Safe, wants to bolster injury prevention by educating her peers on the importance of safety. “I wanted to start Play It Safe because I wanted to teach kids how to have fun while protecting their brains and bodies,” says Olivia.
Olivia, a 6th grader from Fishers, Ind., developed an interest in safety from a firsthand perspective. She has been influenced by the cause directly, growing up with both her mother and father having experienced traumatic brain injuries. Olivia may have had parents who made this cause her passion, but the initiative was all her own.
Olivia gives presentations to Indianapolis area schools, Boys and Girls Clubs and at local sporting events. During these presentations children are encouraged to sign pledges to wear a seat belt and bike helmet.
Olivia’s work is gaining attention. She received a 2014 ABC Service of Summer Award in collaboration with Disney Friends for Change. Through this award she received a $1,000 grant to promote her cause. “I plan to buy many helmets for underprivileged kids in the Indianapolis area who do not have a helmet or cannot afford one,” says Olivia.
It’s this kind of support and affirmation from her peers that motivates Olivia to grow Play it Safe by holding more presentations, expanding to more Indianapolis area schools and acquiring more grants. The need to increase safety precaution is visible through the increase in injuries among youth.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 2.7 million children under the age of 19 were treated annually for sports and recreation-related injuries during 2001-2009. Approximately 6.5%, or 173,285, of these injuries, were traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), including concussion. Olivia uses Play it Safe as an education platform. “Everyone should be cautious of what’s around them and always wear a helmet when riding a bike and trying not to hurt themselves,” says Olivia.
Olivia has been exposed to her cause from a young age, only strengthening her commitment to Play it Safe. Her mother, Darcy Keith, has taken her daughter to Brain Injury Association of Indiana conferences since she was 6 years old. “The Brain Injury Association of Indiana has really wrapped their arms around Olivia and encouraged her,” says Darcy.
This 6th grader encourages everyone to find a cause that impacts them as much as Play it Safe has done for her.
“It’s a great opportunity to make a mark in your community and be remembered with respect,” Olivia says. “Volunteering shows me how much I am helping others and spreading the word to kids all over Indiana and hopefully, one day, the country.”
Olivia offers 5 tips for safety that she distributes during her presentations:
Wear a helmet and make sure it fits properly
When outside, always make sure you can be seen
Play it by the rules
Buckle up when riding in a car
Have an emergency plan and know how to respond
For more information, visit http://www.oliviakeith.com/Play_It_Safe.php. Play it Safe is also on Twitter @Play_It_Safe_