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Helmet Could Have Saved Christina

A Clinton Hill couple is using a personal tragedy to improve the lives of Brooklynites. Devastated by the loss of their only child, Christina Porter, Brent Porter and Mary Salstrom have launched a series of programs in memory of their daughter. In January 2005, Porter passed away from head injuries she sustained in a skiing accident one year earlier. She was 21 years old. She shattered her left skull in February 2004 when she hit a tree during a beginner skiing class at Dartmouth College. She was not required to wear a helmet. If Porter had been wearing a protective helmet, her injuries would not have been so severe, her parents believe. “She probably would have had a concussion and she would have been fine,” Salstrom said. Hoping to protect others from sustaining similar injuries, Brent and Salstrom are lobbying for the state to pass legislation requiring all skiers to wear helmets on the slopes. They have created the Christina Fund For Head Trauma, through which they intend to educate the public about the importance of wearing helmets when skiing. They are also advocating for additional research to be done on head trauma from skiing accidents. Brent and Salstrom are even bringing the artistic pursuits enjoyed by Porter to the masses. Through partnerships with Borough President Marty Markowitz and City Councilmembers David Yassky and Letitia James, Brent and Salstrom are launching Christina Porter Poetry in the Schools. Through the project, they will implement a poetry program at a local Brooklyn school. They hope to eventually expand the program to several schools. The program would be a great fit at public schools, as they often lack poetry instruction, Brent explained. “The kids don’t have any poetry or anything. This is an attempt to have kids write poetry,” he said. “We’re trying to have poetry in the schools from sixth grade to ninth grade,” Salstrom said. Brent and Salstrom hope many more local teens can benefit from writing poems the way their daughter did. “It not only gives them a chance to express themselves in a beautiful way but it also affects their writing and the way they speak and see,” Salstrom said. Porter was an avid poet all her life. She began writing poems when she was in kindergarten at St. Ann’s School in Brooklyn Heights. She further developed her literary skills at Dartmouth College and at a summer poetry workshop at Yale University. “She must have written 500 poems,” Salstrom said. She won numerous Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her pieces, as well as for her drawings. A talented sketch artist, she was asked to create murals for a day care center and St. Ann’s. To further provide opportunities to excel to local schoolchildren, Brent and Salstrom have created the Christina Porter Scholarship Fund. Porter’s poems were recently used in a unique manner to pay tribute to her. Through a commission by the Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, composer Pierre Jalbert set four of Porter’s poems to music. The songs were performed by professional singers at a concert in downtown Brooklyn. The show was appropriate, as Porter was an accomplished opera singer. Through these concerts, funds and programs, Brent and Salstrom are not only aiding others, they are keeping their daughter’s spirit alive. “It helps us a lot to be able to have other people share in what Christina did in her life,” Salstrom said. “That gives us comfort.” To learn more about the Christina Fund For Head Trauma, log onto www.thechristinafund.com.

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