Maegan Garner and Ruby McBee-Thompson McCall have formed an unlikely and powerful alliance to turn their shared tragedy into a force for change.

In November 2010, Garner was involved in a car accident that claimed the life of a motorcyclist, Tiko Thompson. He was McCall’s son.

“It was blunt force trauma to the head,” Garner said. “The doctor said he would probably still be here if he had a helmet.”

From the beginning, McCall and Garner extended incredible grace to each other, but they both faced a long road ahead.

“The first six months, I had to go to counseling,” Garner said. “I was depressed. I woke up one morning and I wanted his life to mean something — to have a legacy and a purpose.”

When the two connected, their shared mission emerged.

The pair has been working tirelessly to promote a universal helmet law for South Carolina, which would require motorcyclists to wear a helmet. The issue comes back before the South Carolina legislature in early 2017.

The proposed law would be called Tiko’s Law, in honor of McCall’s son and also to serve as the acronym Thousands of Individuals Killed on Our Streets.

“When I was sitting by his bed, I vowed to make it law for mandatory helmets,” McCall said. “He didn’t have a scratch on his body. Brain trauma — that’s what we are trying to prevent.”

For young riders

Garner started Smart Rider, an organization devoted to starting the helmet habit early, when children begin to ride bikes. She partners with Safe Kids Upstate and speaks at Upstate elementary schools to encourage children to get in the habit. She also raises money to benefit helmet giveaways. Recently, she worked with the city to have Smart Rider helmet signs posted in downtown Greenville.

“I relate on their level,” Garner said. “A brain is like our computer. They have to protect it.”

“Wearing a helmet reduces bicycle injuries and death by 85 percent,” she said. “Every two minutes a child is at the emergency room due to a bicycle injury. I think if you educate them early, it resonates and becomes second nature.”

But Garner wants parents to hear her as well.

“Often parents think an accident won’t happen,” she said. “Teach them early. When you get a bike, get a helmet. They work hand-in-hand together.”

Both women champion each other’s causes, believing they serve the same purpose.

“I’m a firm believer that God puts people in your life and I believe that’s what happened with Maegan,” McCall said. “Children can sometimes change their parents’ minds. If they say, ‘Mom, I need my helmet,’ soon they will say, ‘Dad, you shouldn’t get on that motorcycle without your helmet.’ If we can get the children to learn, they will teach the parents. They always do.”

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