A chance encounter in Austria set the stage for a new, chrome-plated bicycling helmet on sale to promote the sport in Richmond, mark the championships and help local charities.
Scott Keel, the president of the I Am RVA community support group, was a medical student in Vienna in 2011 when he noticed that lots of Austrians were wearing reflective gold-colored helmets when they cycled. The helmets had the logo of a famous art museum in Europe, the Kunsthistoriches Museum.
It turned out they were part of a fundraiser for the museum — and are still on sale there for 50 Euros, or about $63. “Everybody was wearing the helmets — suits, kids and students in college,” says Keel, a physician training to be a pediatrician.
When he moved back to Richmond last year, it occurred to him that the idea was a great way to promote the city while helping charity, especially with Richmond due to play host a nine-day bike race expected to draw hordes of visitors and television viewers around the world.
I Am RVA contracted with Giro, a California-based bicycle accessories brand, which helped design the reflective exterior and arranged to have the helmets made in China. The helmets sell for $50, with part of the proceeds going to I Am RVA.
The group is raising money to donate helmets to the bike program of Sportable, which offers sport and recreation opportunities to people with physical and visual disabilities, and for youth who use Richmond Cycling Corps’ new Armstrong Bike Park, the country’s first inner-city mountain bike park.
The first order of 288 helmets, which can be pre-ordered, will be available Aug. 27 during a launch party at the Valentine museum, Keel says. Venture Richmond also has donated $5,000 to help defray costs. Style Editor Jason Roop volunteers on the board of the nonprofit.
A larger order is expected in November. Keel says the plan is to set up local charities that can raise money for projects by selling helmets through IAmRVA.com: “The buyer would go to a computer, click on the drop-down and pick the charity he or she wants.”
Keel says I Am RVA’s signature helmets will keep Richmond bikers safe while acting as a “unifying symbol the public will associate with our vibrant community.”