'Educate and Equip': Niceville parents turn tragedy to charity in DeFuniak

taylor haugen foundation

Walton Middle School football players in their EvoShield rib shields.

Special to The Sun
Published: Thursday, September 5, 2013 at 04:18 PM.

Every parent worries about their children as they enter the world of sports, but many are unaware of the measures that can be taken to protect their young athletes from injuries, which is where the Taylor Haugen Foundation comes in.

The organization was created in memory of Taylor Haugen, a 15-year-old Niceville High School student who passed away from injuries sustained during a 2008 football game.

"It was originally started by Taylor 's friends," explained Brian Haugen, Taylor 's father. "They began raising money for scholarship and it just developed and grew."

Brian and his wife Kathy both knew that they wanted to raise awareness about safety precautions for young athletes, but weren't psychologically ready until about two years ago.

When the time was right, they started the Youth Equipment for Sports Safety program (YESS).

"What really kicked it in gear were two local injuries," said Brian. "In South Walton High School there was a liver laceration and a ruptured spleen at Rocky Bayou Christian School . That was our calling."

Although Brian and Kathy have no other children, they feel an obligation to educate parents and schools of the importance of proper equipment.

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