SIOUX FALLS | When Troy Mundt tells the story of the bicycle accident 15 years ago that left him with permanent injuries, it's as if he's sharing it for the first time.
That's good news, and that's bad news.
He doesn't remember the accident, which left him with a broken bone and a traumatic brain injury (TBI); that's good.
If he tells the story too often, however, what little he has pieced together over the years, the distressing tale leaves him mourning the loss of the man he once was; that's bad.
Instead, the now 39-year-old Brandon resident prefers to focus on the nonprofit organization he has founded, Helmets 4 Kids. His goal is to make sure young bicycle riders realize the importance of wearing a helmet when they head out, the Argus Leader reported (http://argusne.ws/15GIEYh ).
Since December 2011, when the Helmets 4 Kids website was launched and nonprofit status achieved, Helmets 4 Kids has given away at least 700 bike helmets, and Mundt and his personal and professional partner, Lissa Hendricks, have spoken to more than 2,000 children.
While they have received some sponsorships, the couple will buy the helmets themselves if they can find help nowhere else. In fact, a major sponsorship fell through last year, and the couple still are paying off the helmets they purchased then.
Mundt, a 1992 graduate of Lincoln High School, had left South Dakota State University after a couple of years while he decided what he wanted to do with his life.
The accident occurred in the early morning, after he had left the graveyard shift of his job at a Perkins restaurant. He and a friend took their bicycles out, intending to watch the sun rise.
"Next thing I know I'm in the hospital," Mundt says. "They put me in a coma for nine, 10 days. I spent a month or two in rehab, then a hard month in outpatient rehab, learning the rules of society, how to get my brain to work again."
Mundt had sustained damage of the temporal and frontal lobes. He no longer has a sense of smell and takes medications to control the epilepsy that developed as a result of the accident.
His short-term memory never recovered.
"You can tell me the same story 100 times, I might not remember it ever," Mundt says.
Hendricks has two children with Asperger's, which falls on the autism spectrum, and another child with ADHD. She says Mundt and her children share the traits of being impulsive and without guile. If they think of something, they say it, she says.
"That whole brain-to-mouth filter doesn't always work for me," Mundt says. "I'll say, 'I said that out loud?' That's a catch phrase of mine."
After Mundt and Hendricks met, he told her of his desire to make something good come from his accident. A Web designer by trade, Hendricks created the website and pursued the paperwork needed to make Helmets 4 Kids a reality.
The pair were invited to set up a table in the Sioux Empire Fair's Safety Village earlier this month, and they do other events, including several library appearances. When they have the money to bring free helmets along, they do so.
Even more important, however, is reminding both children and parents that wearing a helmet should be routine. Parents, the couple says, often are more resistant to the idea than their kids. They didn't wear them as kids, Hendricks hears over and over again, so why should their children?
"Our No. 1 goal is to tell people about the importance of wearing helmets and get helmets to the kids whose parents can't afford them or won't buy them," she says. "And it's to teach parents to enforce the helmet use."
Preaching that particular message means Mundt has to tell his story over and over, and that can be wearying and wearing. He is looking for others who might want to share his speaking duties, giving him a break from remembering what might have been if not for a decision he made 15 years ago.
"Maybe a long ways down the road I could do a support group for TBI survivors," he says. "(An old friend) called me up after years and had some questions. I cried a lot that day. It was pretty clear I helped someone out."