Kemi O’Donnell is crusading in honor of her daughter. Christen O’Donnell tragically passed away on August 11th, 1998 at the tender age of 12. Even though her horse was only walking, and Christen was wearing a traditional velvet hunt cap, she sustained a traumatic brain injury. What O’Donnell did not realize at the time of Christen’s accident was that a hunt cap is simply a piece of apparel.
“Riding is the only sport that makes a piece of apparel that looks like a helmet with a hard shell, but is unapproved and not manufactured for head protection,” said O’Donnell. “People do suffer head injuries and die because manufacturers are putting them out there and making them look like helmets.”
For more than 10 years, O’Donnell has campaigned in an attempt to pass Federal legislation, in Christen’s name to stop the production and sale of all unapproved equestrian “helmets” in the United States. O’Donnell says she is not trying to force equestrians to wear a helmet or attempting to pass legislation that would make a helmet a requirement. She says she is simply attempting to protect consumers from making the same mistake that she did – purchasing something that looked like a helmet, but was not meant to protect riders’ heads in the event of a fall.
Despite O’Donnell’s best efforts, the bill has yet to pass.
It was just over two years ago at the first Riders4Helmets Safety Symposium in Palm Beach, Florida, that O’Donnell first met Roy Burek, managing director of Charles Owen, and Burek learned of the death of Christen. By the time of the third Safety Symposium, Burek had decided that he wasn’t going to wait for a law to pass to take matters into his own hands.
“… I received a call from Roy that changed my life,” said O’Donnell. “I couldn’t believe my ears when Roy told me of his decision to stop manufacturing hunt caps in North America and to cease selling them on the market in 2013. Something I can honestly say I never thought any helmet manufacturer would be willing to do.”
For over 100 years Charles Owen has been in the business of manufacturing and selling hunt caps around the world, but by the end of 2013 that will no longer be the case. According to Charles Owen, the company stands behind a tradition of safety that comes first. O’Donnell is hoping that other manufacturers of hunt caps will follow Burek’s lead.
“I will be forever grateful to Roy and Charles Owen for their heroic actions and for Lyndsey and Dr. Ferrell for creating a forum for education and changes to take place. In an article I read about Roy, he said,