Local truck accessory company makes baby helmets a little less drab, a little more fun

July 27, 2018 - 6:50 am

The KMBZ Person of the Week is Chris Ripper of Chux Trux in Kansas City, who began a program that provides free, professional decorations for baby helmets.

The helmets are prescribed by doctors to treat a condition called plagiocephaly.

"It's just a flat spot," said Pam West, who runs the Hangar Clinic for Prosthetics and Orthotics at Children's Mercy Hospital. "The head's growing, but the shape is just off."

People call devices helmets, but the official name, according to the health insurance companies that underwrite them, is cranial remodeling orthosis. The helmet applies a little bit of pressure to wider spots and leaves space for growth on the flat spots.

Chris Ripper at Chux Trux in Kansas City says it started when a former employee called with a special request for his son, who was prescribed a baby helmet. The guy remembered the company manufactured decorative vinyl wraps for cars, trucks and large appliances, and wondered if Chris could make him something for the baby.

"He wanted this look, like a race car helmet," Chris said. "He wanted that look of Ricky Bobby, "Talladega Nights," the Will Ferrell character."

The helmet turned out so well that Chux Trux started getting lots of requests to wrap baby helmets with all sorts of themes. They did so many that one employee was sent to school to learn how to do it. The skill is not easy to acquire.

"Try to picture gift-wrapping a bowling ball, with no wrinkles in the paper," Chris said. "That's kind of what that thing's like."

Chux Trux has several ready-made designs, for boys and girls.

Little girls seem to understand that wearing the helmet 23 hours a day is supposed to be good for them, but boys are another story. They put on their helmets and immediately start banging it againt hard objects.

"They feel like they're in race car mode, like they're ready to be shot out of a cannon," Chris said. "Boys will be boys."

Pam West laughed when she was asked whether the helmets make little boys feel invincible.

"Well, could be," Pam said. "Maybe we should start giving capes along with the helmets, huh?"

All the time that goes into designing and wrapping helmets is paid for by Chux Trux.

"It's the right thing to do," Chris said. "There's a time to make money and there's a time to do the right thing."

One famous little wearer of one of the Chux Trux-decorated helmets is Jack Palmer, a former KMBZ Person of the Week, who continues to do well, two months after receiving a historic heart-lung transplant. He's survived longer than any baby who has ever undergone the procedure. Jack's helmet theme makes him look like a tiny World War I pilot.

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