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Smile BIG Foundation looks to prevent student bus deaths

March 22, 2013
Alissa Klenk - Reporter , Dysart Reporter

Eleven year old Justin Bradfield was a happy child and always smiling. He was a Janesville Middle School honor student, choir and band member, a baseball player, a Cub Scout, and involved in the youth group at church. He was creative and loved building things out of wood. He enjoyed spending time with his family and friends, fishing, shooting his BB gun, collecting rocks, playing catch, helping care for the neighbor's horses, and doing the things that eleven year old boys love to do.

On October 31, 2011, Justin was hit and killed by his school bus. His two younger brothers, Brayden and Cade, witnessed the accident. The tragedy touched many lives in the Janesville Community, including his classmates and teachers, the Janesville first responders and firemen who responded to the accident.

According to the National High Traffic Safety Administration's Traffic Safety Facts 2001-2010 Report, issued in August 2012, 123 school aged pedestrians have died in school-transportation related crashes. Over two-thirds (69%) were struck by school buses.

In the spring of 2012, Emily Halbach, who was a sophomore at Janesville High School, met with Justin's parents to discuss a project she had been working on since Justin's death. Emily had three primary goals: to create more frequent and extensive elementary safety programs, to retrofit all Janesville buses with child detective devices, and to propose a bill to legislature that all buses in the state of Iowa be required to have such devices. Through research, Emily found that sensors could be installed on school buses to detect children that were in the danger zone out of sight from the driver. She named her project the Smile BIG Project.

With the help of Traci Berry (President), Mary Dove (Vice President), Teresa Gergen (Treasurer), Lindsey Keller (Public Relations), Kim Bradfield (Secretary), and Ryan Bradfield (Gopher) a committee was formed and the Smile BIG foundation was created. The Smile BIG Foundation was created to remember and honor Justin. The foundation motto is "keeping our children safe, one project at a time".

"We are currently part of a pilot program, that is being required by the Department of Education Transportation Department , to test two possible sensors. We intend to go to the legislature and propose a bill requiring such sensors following the pilot program," stated Smile BIG foundation president Traci Berry.

The foundation's first project is to equip school buses with child detection systems, specifically the Rostra Student Detection Systems (SDS). The Rostra SDS is a motion-activated detection system that uses reflected radar waves to detect a moving target. When a target, a child, is detected within specified danger zones in the front, rear, and sides of the bus, an alarm sounds to alert the driver, and corresponding LEDs on a display panel indicate the target's location by zone. The system the foundation has selected also includes a Rear Sentry Rear Obstacle Sensing System, installed for rear coverage when the bus moves in reverse.

A Smile BIG Benefit will be held Saturday April 6th from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the Pepsi Pavilion on The National Cattle Congress Grounds in Waterloo. Everyone is invited to attend to honor Justin's memory, help keep children safe, and support the Smile BIG foundation with their first project. All proceeds go towards the Smile BIG Project, raising awareness, and keeping Justin's memory alive.

There will be a live auction, silent auction, door prizes, live performances by Urban Legend and Redline, a full cash bar, and concessions. Demonstrations of the Rostra SDS installed on a bus will be held from 6:30 to 8:00.

More information can be found at, on Twitter @smilebigJustin, and on Facebook by searching Smile BIG foundation. Donations are accepted at any Veridian Credit Union location or can be mailed to The Smile BIG Foundation, P.O. Box 37, Janesville, IA 50647.



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