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Conquering Concussions, One Helmet At A Time

A Santa Barbara couple is on a mission to continue their son’s legacy and make sure student athletes have the equipment they need.

Tony and Debbie Herrera lost their adult son, AJ, four months ago at the age of 34. His death touched hundreds of people throughout the county, from Santa Maria where he lived to Santa Barbara, where he grew up and attended Santa Barbara High School.

AJ was a championship motorcycle racer and was known throughout the flat-track circuit, and often raced his motorcycles at speeds of up to 130 miles an hour, from Daytona to Pomona and Del Mar.

AJ also suffered more than 20 concussions during his racing career.

Over time, he competed in a different type of race — to provide helmets to young motorcycle riders who couldn’t afford to buy them.

In all, AJ’s father Tony says his son outfitted more than 80 kids with new racing helmets, out of his own pocket, at more than $500 dollars a pop.

Tony shares the story of one boy who received a helmet and ran up to give AJ a big hug. “The little guy says, ‘I want to be just like you AJ.’ He goes, ‘No you don’t. You want to ride like me but i’m giving you a new helmet because I had one too many head concussions.'”

The Herrera’s are continuing AJ’s legacy with the help of a memorial fund set up in their son’s honor.

Donations can be made in person or by mail to the Bank of America branch at 3790 State Street. The account is: #3250-1593-4024. The Herrera’s plan to use the funds, annually, to buy new helmets for young riders who can’t afford them.

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