TOMS RIVER — Operation Brain Freeze is underway in Toms River.

Under the initiative, which is in its eighth year, children under 17 years old that are seen by Toms River police wearing a helmet while riding their bicycle will be rewarded for obeying the law.

If an officer catches a child wearing a helmet while riding, they will get pulled over and given a ticket, said Jillian Messina, media relations specialist for the Toms River Police Department.

“The ticket is actually for a free ice cream cone at one of our local shops. Scan the QR code on the ticket and it tells you all the shops that are participating locally. When the child goes, the whole family goes, so it also benefits the shops as well,” Messina said.

Kids may not think it’s cool to wear a helmet while riding a bike, but Messina said it’s extremely dangerous not to, so this program rewards them for good behavior.

The program was started by Traffic Safety Officer Adam Koeppen who approached Chief Mitchell Little about wanting to do something for the kids and for the community. Koeppen continues to run the program.

Last year, about 1,200 tickets for free ice cream were handed out by.

“When they catch a kid, they say thanks for obeying the law and for being a good kid. 'Thanks for obeying the law and we’re proud of you,'” Messina said.

For kids not wearing bike helmets while riding, Messina said the officer will explain to them the safety of wearing one. The kids are then encouraged to don a helmet so that the next time they are caught, they’ll receive a free ice cream certificate.

A couple of years ago, some Toms River officers purchased bike helmets for kids who couldn't afford them, according to Messina.

Messina said the program is a great way for officers to engage with the community, adding that kids are used to seeing cops at their schools, camps, and at various events around town, so for the most part, they are very comfortable with the officers.

The following ice cream shops participating in the program will be rewarded with a certificate for one free soft-serve ice cream cup or cone:

  • Dairy Queen, 931 Fischer Blvd, Toms River, NJ
  • Mrs. Walkers Ice Cream Parlor, 908 Fischer Blvd, Toms River, NJ
  • Summer Sweets, 3071 Route 35 North, Lavallette, NJ
  • Barnacle Bills, 1968 Route 35N, Seaside Heights, NJ
  • Yellow Brick Road Ice Cream Carousel, 1857 Hooper Ave, Toms River, NJ
  • Rita’s Toms River,1687 Route 9, Toms River, NJ
  • McDonald’s, 843 Fischer Blvd, Toms River, NJ
  • McDonald’s (Silverton), 1786 Hooper Ave, Toms River, NJ
  • McDonald’s, 371 Route 37 East, Toms River, NJ

Messina expects more ice cream shops to jump on board this summer, too.

“Our whole objective is to have a great relationship with the community because that builds trust on both sides. You give the respect and you get the respect,” Messina said.

The program runs through Sept. 5.

Jen Ursillo is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach her at

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Among reasons why the “Garden State” remains a fitting nickname for New Jersey — late summer means the arrival of sunflower season.

There are at least six fields, spanning the state. Some are in bloom as of early August, while others are planned to peak from late August to late September.

Calling or emailing before heading out is always advisable if weather appears to be an issue. 

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