After losing their son, family delivers plea for helmet use while sledding

Holly and Ron Miller never want another parent or Scout leader to suffer like they have.

On Jan. 16, 2010, their 12-year-old son Ian Joshua Miller was on a Scout trip to a north-central Pennsylvania ski area. He became separated from the group and was taking his final sledding run of the evening when his sled went out of control. Ian hit a ski lift pole, and the blow to his head killed him instantly.

The website for a charity Ian’s parents have established in his name says Ian loved being a Scout, attending weekend and summer Bible camps, cooking, playing goalie for his soccer team, scuba diving, and designing roller coasters on his computer.

Ian’s life ended too soon, and Holly and Ron say a $40 ski helmet would likely have prevented this tragedy. This doesn’t just apply to Ian. The Millers cite studies documenting 20,000 sledding injuries each year, with head injuries being the most common.

“If convincing other people to protect their children with helmets and a life can be saved, or a severe head injury can be avoided, then the effort we are putting into education about helmets while sledding will be worth it,” Ron says.

“We do not want to see another Scout, or any other child, suffer a head injury from sledding,” Holly adds. “We don’t want any other parent to feel the loss of a child in this way when it is so easy to have them wear a helmet.”

The BSA’s health and safety leader Richard Bourlon says he supports the Millers’ efforts to protect other children from injury.

He adds that sledding is not a required program in Scouting but rather an activity that some but not all Scouts participate in. Snowboarding and skiing, on the other hand, have merit badge components to them and are considered part of Scouting’s program.

“As such, the Sweet 16 of BSA Safety and our Winter Sports Safety Guidelines are in place — which include compelling aspirational language to wear helmets,” he says.

The guidelines state that helmet use is recommended in sledding and required in downhill skiing, snowboarding and operating snowmobiles (full-face helmets required for snowmobiles).

“We recognize that many accidents occur while sledding and we are saddened when even one Scout or Scouter is injured,” Bourlon continues. “We support the Millers’ advice on sledding safety — helmets and steerable sleds.”

As do I. Hearing Ian’s story and knowing how relatively inexpensive ski helmets are, it seems like an obvious step to protect our Scouts and children. Preventable tragedies are called that for a reason, and I applaud the Millers’ efforts and mourn the loss of their son.

Says Ron: “We hope that through Ian’s example another family will not feel the immeasurable pain that we do.”

About Bryan Wendell 3282 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.