2019 RAGBRAI rock photoEach July, the roads of Iowa become a bit more crowded. As the hot sun beats down on the pavement, bikes speed by as riders of the Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI), the great bicycle trek across the state, set off on their journey. And it’s likely that these riders might carry with them items such as water, snacks, and sunscreen. But for the twenty-one riders representing University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, they’ll be carrying something extra with them: rocks.

While it might seem counterintuitive to add weight to the already challenging ride, each rock represents a child at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital who decorated it. 

For the team, the weight of the rocks will be a constant reminder of the children they serve and of the life-saving work they do each day.

An important cause

According to safekids.org, preventable injuries are the number one killer of children in the U.S.

“We certainly see a spike in injuries related to bicycles in the summer. That’s why it’s so important to get out the message about bike safety,” says Pam Hoogerwerf, injury prevention and safety specialist at the children’s hospital. “RAGBRAI is a great way to share that message in communities all across our state.”

Hoogerwerf’s work extends throughout the year as well, hosting events and sharing injury prevention educational materials with families, but she says the energy at RAGBRAI is something special.

Meet the team

Four physicians, one physical therapist, one physician’s assistant, two nurses, one compliance specialist, two injury prevention health educators, one fire safety inspector, one certified surgical technologist, and one IT manager, along with spouses and family members, make up this year’s UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital team. And as they cycle their way across the state, they’re also bringing with them the message of bike safety and injury prevention, a cause that is prevalent during the summer months.

2019 RAGBRAI team photo

Some of the general bike safety tips the team shares include:

  1. Helmet should be level on head with chin strap tight
  2. Look both ways when crossing the street
  3. Wear bright clothes and put reflectors on bike
  4. Use proper hand signals

“This will be the fifth year the children’s hospital team has completed RAGBRAI,” Hoogerwerf says. “Each stop along the route is a new opportunity to seek out families and spread the word about how to make biking safer for children.”

Sporting children’s hospital jerseys, the team is often approached by former patients and families who share their stories of the amazing work done at our hospital.

“Hearing first-hand how our hospital has impacted others is very powerful,” continues Hoogerwerf.

And of course, every so often on the RAGBRAI route a medical emergency occurs that requires immediate action, and the team is often the first there to lend a hand, like in 2017 when they were first on the scene of a motorcycle accident.

Armed with injury prevention knowledge and rocks, the team is ready to make a difference, one mile at a time.

To learn more about bike safety, visit UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital’s bike safety page.