'Ode to Joy'

'Ode to Joy'

May 13, 2011

Marine’s legacy becomes life lesson for all

Photo courtesy of the Ian Tillman Foundation
By Lance Cpl. Tyler C. Vernaza, Marine Corps Bases Japan 
CAMP HANSEN, Okinawa, Japan  — On the night of May 26, 2005, Ian Lee Tillman and a few of his friends took their long boards out for a ride in Ian’s hometown in Clearwater, Fla. Tillman, being a former Marine, loved the fast life. He was fearless. As they rode down Hercules Avenue, just as they had done countless times before, Ian fell. Ian was not wearing his helmet. As a result, he sustained traumatic brain injuries and died 10 days later at 28 years old.
Seven months after Ian’s death his parents started the Ian Tillman Foundation, a non-profit organization, whose mission is traumatic brain injury prevention with a focus on skateboarding. The Tillman’s preserve Ian’s legacy through their “Helmet for a Promise” program.

“Ian had a passion for humanity and helping others, and I knew I had to help,” said Marcy Tillman, Ian’s mother and founder of the Ian Tillman Foundation.

Ian’s parents took to the streets, visiting various skate parks, community centers and, from May 9-16, Barry Tillman, Ian’s father and vice president of the foundation, is visiting Marine Corps installations on Okinawa. The Installation Safety Office, Marine Corps Base Camp Butler, is hosting the Critical Days of Summer presentation on several Marine Corps camps. Barry is the keynote speaker, highlighting the importance of wearing proper protective equipment during high-risk adventure activities.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 2,300 skaters were admitted to hospitals with traumatic brain injuries,” said Barry at a CDS presentation at Camp Foster. “So, if you promise to wear a helmet we will give you one, custom fitted to your head.”

“Helmet for a Promise” works, he said. Each skater signs a contract promising to wear their helmet.
“We are not only helping save lives, but changing the attitudes skaters have towards helmets,” he added.

Since its creation, “Helmet for a Promise” has equipped athletes with more than 3,000 helmets. Testimony and helmet replacements confirm that more than three lives have been saved, more than 30 hospitalizations have been avoided and countless minor concussions have been prevented, according to their website.

Ian’s accident could happen to anyone. Marines, who are often risk takers, are exposed to similar dangers regularly.

Safety is every service member’s responsibility on and off duty, said Aaron Davis, lead safety and occupational health specialist with Installation Safety.

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