WSM Local Hero Luly Beckles

Luly Beckles, Pediatric Injury Prevention Coordinator at Brenner Children's Hospital, explains to Fall Creek Elementary School fourth-graders Alex Gonzales-Calderon (left), 9, and Jose Garcia-Martinez, 9, in Spanish how to properly wear a bicycle helmet.

As a teenager, Hayluri “Luly” Beckles first came to the U.S. to learn English. She returned to Venezuela to finish high school, and then came back to Winston-Salem to continue her education. She built a life here; got married, had three children, and started a career. Now, she’s a leader who’s dedicated most of her career to helping families — especially those who are Hispanic and Latino.

“I think it’s in my nature to help others, regardless; but when I came to the United States, I had a lot of guidance and support from people that had moved here years before I did,” she says. “They understood the cultural shock and challenges one faces when moving to another country. I was also fortunate to meet wonderful people and families from the United States who took me under their wing. I want to provide the same level of support I received.”

Early in her career, Beckles was passionate about early childhood education and helped Hispanic and Latino families gain access to quality childcare. She also assisted the first five Latinas in the state to successfully open their own licensed family childcare programs.

Her current work to educate families about preventable childhood injuries came from her own painful experience. The mother of three lost her oldest son in 2006 when he was struck by a drunk driver. Joshua, then 7, was riding his bicycle near their home when the driver hit him with his pick-up truck.

Through her grief, Beckles was determined to do something positive for children. After learning that most childhood deaths in the U.S. are from preventable injuries, she started Joshua’s Friends Foundation in her son’s memory. Through the organization, she created the first bike safety event in Winston-Salem. Over 6,000 children received properly fitted bicycle helmets since that first annual bike safety day.

Her impact increased significantly in 2015 when she became the Pediatric Injury Prevention Coordinator for the Level I Pediatric Trauma Program at Brenner Children’s Hospital. The role includes coordinating bicycle and car seat safety events, and educating families about dangers at home and at play. She is a National Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician and a member of the American Trauma Society. She also serves on the Injury Prevention Committee for the Pediatric Trauma Society. As of Dec. 14, she completed a Master’s degree in Addiction Research and Clinical Health at Wake Forest University; her research focus is to assist mothers with substance use disorders.

In 2018, Beckles received the N.C. Safe Kids Coordinator of the Year award and she hopes to help other coordinators throughout the state to better help Hispanic and Latino families. She also received the Hanesbrands Inc. Hispanic Leadership Award last April.

Though a community leader, Beckles considers her mother, not herself, to be a hero. Her mother, who was orphaned when she was just a toddler, became a teacher, wife, and mother. When she was widowed in her mid-30s, she still completed her graduate thesis while raising three children. It was her mother, Beckles says, who taught her to keep going — no matter the circumstances.

“We all have to give back,” Beckles says. “I don’t want another family to go through what my family and child went through. That’s why I embark on this journey.”

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