In August of 2008, Brian and Kathy Haugen experienced the worst tragedy any parent could ever go through, the loss of their son. 15-year-old Taylor died on the football field playing the game he loved.
In his short 15 ½ years, Taylor Reid Haugen left an indelible mark on the community though his living faith and compassion for his friends, team, community, organizations and church. “T”, as he was known, was well-respected by his peers, teachers, congregation and family as an upbeat, positive, selfless yet self-confident young man whose, two passions were Jesus and football. T was a natural leader among his friends and teammates, a mentor to the young and a positive influence and inspiration to all who knew him and of him.
Brian and Kathy are the parents of Taylor. Kathy is the Executive Director of the Taylor Haugen Foundation. It’s mission is to “build and recognize youth leaders and promote youth sports safety to honor the legacy of Taylor Haugen.” You can listen to their story on the podcast below.
In this episode of the podcast, Jason Romano talks with Brian and Kathy about the legacy of their son, going through the tragedy of losing a child, and how they turned the pain of Taylor’s death, into purpose.
Below is a complimentary piece that was shared with us from Kathy Haugen about the Taylor Haugen Foundation and where it was birthed.
Many small towns across the Southeast thrive for Friday Night Football. Niceville, Florida is one of those towns. Local and small businesses close early on Friday nights allowing all community members to enjoy the excitement of the Friday night lights. August 30th, 2008 was one of those highly anticipated nights, as Niceville High School played rival team Fort Walton Beach High School in the annual Kickoff Classic. Both teams and fans filled the stadium with excitement and cheers but all left that game devastated by tragedy. The outcome of this game rocked the community and changed the lives of many.
During the first quarter, Taylor Haugen a 15 year old sophomore wide receiver, reached up to catch an overthrown ball and was simultaneously tackled on both sides of his body. Taking a moment to catch his breath, Taylor slowly got up, walked to the sidelines and seconds later collapsed around his teammates. Being rushed to the hospital, Taylor tragically passed away later the next day from internal bleeding produced by a torn liver.
Looking to the Lord for direction and purpose among the chaos of losing their only child, parents Brian and Kathy Haugen began to lead a charge towards recognition of and protection from abdominal injury in secondary school sports. Starting as a small nonprofit providing scholarships and awards to community individuals, the Taylor Haugen Foundation was founded shortly after Taylor’s passing. A few years later, while hearing of another young student athlete passing away due to an abdominal injury, the foundation created the Youth Equipment for Sports Safety (YESS) Program. The YESS Program’s mission is to educate and equip middle and high school athletes on new generation, high tech abdominal injury protection commonly worn by college and professional athletes, but often unknown to our youth athletes and their parents.
Brian and Kathy began to research abdominal injuries. What they found out about this rare injury is that it’s far from rare at all. In fact, in the combined 2015 and 2016 high school football seasons, a total of 5 reported deaths from abdominal injuries occurred. What is perhaps more concerning is that while 5 were reported no one knows how many others may have gone un-noticed or un-reported due to a lack of tracking or recognition of abdominal injuries.
Brian and Kathy believe that abdominal injuries may be the third wave of recognition of sports injuries. Meaning, heat injuries and concussions were first considered to be infrequent and rarely fatal – until studied further. Determined to do something about it, the foundation’s YESS Program endorses a high tech line of rib-guard custom fit shirts protecting the abdominal region. These patented shirts are composed of a polyester dry-fit material with integrated pockets around the abdominal area in which shields are inserted. The patented shields are made of a proprietary blend of polymer and when exposed to air, within minutes, harden into the molded shape around each player. Thus, enabling a custom fit protection to each unique body form, for every individual, protecting vital organs. The ‘gel to shell’ technology fits like a custom Kevlar.
As a part of the YESS Program, school teams and sports organizations across the country can apply for their team to be outfit by the Taylor Haugen Foundation. The foundation then provides a 50% matching grant, with the approved applicant, to cover the costs of the shirts. The Foundations board members often attend fittings at these schools and provide further information regarding T, the foundation and maintenance of the shirts to the students, coaches and parents.
Since 2011, the Taylor Haugen Foundation has outfit over 4,400 student athletes across 13 states with this abdominal protective equipment. The foundation has been blessed to partner with several professional athletes, such as Drew Stanton quarterback for the Arizona Cardinals, to help further grow the program, support the mission, and spread the reach.
Brian and Kathy feel that their mission will be complete when all student athletes are required to wear abdominal protective gear in secondary school contact sports, allowing all children the ability to play the sport their son loved so much with less risk from this overlooked injury.
For more on the Taylor Haugen foundation, check out TaylorHaugen.org.