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First Niagara Bank and Sean’s Run Offering Grants

November 1, 2008 — Youth organizations and schools are invited to apply for cash grants from First Niagara Bank Foundation and the organizers of Sean’s Run to implement a fun and fast moving activity, the Battle of the Belts, that is designed to increase teens’ and ‘tweens use of seatbelts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, car crashes are the number one cause of death for teens; nearly 2/3 of those who perish were not using safety belts.

School groups and youth organizations such as Scouts, 4-H, church groups and sports teams, may apply for up to $500 each to implement a Battle of the Belts seatbelt buckling contest and send teams to participate in the World Championship Battle of the Belts at Sean’s Run next April. Instructions for youth groups and schools to submit a one-page application are available at Applications are due by December 1, 2008.

First Niagara is the Presenting Sponsor of Sean’s Run, an annual community event that focuses on the problems of underage drinking, impaired driving and teens’ lax use of seat belts. Held the last Sunday of April each spring at Chatham High School, the event attracts hundreds of participants from all over and includes a 5K and a one mile run/walk dubbed Meghan’s Mile. Also included are a tribute to victims and survivors of drunk driving, a Prevention Education Expo and the World Championship Battle of the Belts seat belt buckling contest for teens.

$106,000 has been contributed as grants and scholarships by Sean’s Run over the past 7 years thanks to generous sponsors and contributors. 65 programs that encourage safe driving have received grants from Sean’s Run and 48 college bound high school seniors have been awarded scholarships since the first event in 2002.

Thomas Amell, Eastern New York Regional President for First Niagara in announcing the grants program noted, “First Niagara maintains a strong commitment to the communities in which we live and work: The Battle of the Belts is a great way to reach young people and underscore the importance of always using seatbelts. As Presenting Sponsor, First Niagara Bank continues its support of youth not only through our statewide mentoring program, but also efforts such as Sean’s Run. We are happy to be Presenting Sponsor because we believe that investing in the safety and well being of our youth makes good sense.”

Last fall the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee invited the Sean’s Run organizers to present a workshop about the Battle of the Belts during the State’s annual traffic safety conference in Lake Placid. County Traffic Safety Boards, STOP DWI Coordinators and police agencies from around the state attended the conference.

When the Battle begins, teams take turns buckling up. At the start, a team of four teenagers runs to a 4-door car and they jump in. They all buckle up, throw their hands in the air and a Referee shouts "Rotate!" They unbuckle, get out, run clockwise to the next seat, get in, and buckle up again. The team with the fastest time, after the 4th buckle, is declared the winner. There are awards for the fastest teams, for teams with the loudest cheering sections, best t-shirts and best team names. The Buckle-Up Bettys is a favorite of the Organizing Committee.

Jeff French, Chairman of Sean’s Run, said “With the generous support of First Niagara we are able to encourage this innovative activity that aims to reduce the number of teens who fail to use their seatbelts. Our goal is to also lower the numbers of young people who consume alcohol, ride with an impaired driver or drink and drive.”

Sean’s Run was founded in 2002 following the tragic death of Sean Patrick French, a 17-year old Chatham High School junior, honor roll student, community volunteer and record-setting athlete who was killed on January 1, 2002, as a passenger on a drunk-driving car crash. This tragedy prompted the enactment of Sean’s Law on January 1, 2003 that requires the suspension of a license upon the first arrest of a 16 or 17 year old on drunken driving charges.







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