In his short 15 1/2 years, Taylor Reid Haugen left his mark on the community.
T, as he was known, was an upbeat, positive, selfless, yet self-confident young man who played all sports, but loved football best and he played wide receiver.
T was a leader. His motto was "never quit, never give up."
At his school, he was president of the National Junior Honor Society, a member of the Leadership Council, a youth soccer referee, was on the scuba diving team, was a Key Club member, and a member of the wrestling and football teams. He also worked with younger athletes, and at his church as a volunteer for student retreats, events and fundraisers. All while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
T was a 15-year-old Niceville High School student when he died on Aug. 30, 2008, following a traumatic abdominal injury sustained during a football game.
In his memory, Taylor's parents Brian and Kathy Haugen created the Taylor Haugen Foundation to recognize youth leaders and promote youth sport safety. The foundation provides awareness, education, and abdominal injury protection to secondary schools and leagues in contact sports through its YESS Program.
The foundation also recognizes and supports outstanding scholar-athletes with scholarships and awards.
The family gives out five scholarships annually: three in Okaloosa County, one in Walton County, and one in Santa Rosa County.
The Taylor Haugen trophy and scholarship is awarded to an athlete who best demonstrates a balance between academics, athleticism, leadership, community service and Christian faith.
The 2018 trophy winner in Walton County was South Walton High School's Maddie Hiers. She is the 10th recipient.
Hiers was named 2018 Taylor Haugen Trophy Winner in February in conjunction with the All Sports Association.
Hiers is a member of South Walton's volleyball and tennis teams and has excelled in the foundation's five pillars of excellence: faith, community service, leadership, academics and athletics.
Hiers served as the team captain for her volleyball team, she is involved in FCA, she has traveled with her church on several mission trips, she excels in academics with a 4.1 GPA, and is involved in athletics. After high school she hopes to attend Florida State University and major in human development and family science with a minor in psychology.
"Once she is accepted at FSU, we give the scholarship money to the university," said Kathy Haugen.
Hiers' story differs from many individuals' due to her family's medical troubles. As a sophomore, Maddie's mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer during which time Maddie supported, comforted, and prayed for her family. Her mother is now in remission. Then, almost a year later, as a junior, her father was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer. During these trying times, Maddie threw herself into her faith.
The Haugens said Maddie illuminated what it means to don't quit, never give up.
"It is a great honor," Maddie told the Sun. "I was shocked to be chosen. It's like I've joined a new family -- the Haugen family. It's really special."
"We are honored," said Maddie's mom, Beth. "We love what it stands for."
Although this year's selection is over, the year is not over for the Taylor Haugen Foundation.
On March 6, the Haugens attended a groundbreaking for a new home in Baker along with Randy Wise Homes and United Bank. Proceeds from the sale of the home located at Mill Creek Farms will be donated to the Taylor Haugen Foundation and the Special Forces Association.
"The bank donated the land and we will split the proceeds from the sale 50/50," said Brian Haugen. "Randy has been a big supporter of the foundation forever and he has been talking about doing this for about five years. We will use the money for the Yess program and the foundation."
On March 25, there will be a Sunday brunch celebration from noon to 3 p.m. at Compass Rose in Valparaiso honoring Taylor, whose 25th birthday would have fallen on March 16. Tickets to the event are $40 in advance online at taylorhaugen.org or $50 the day of. The buffet brunch will be prepared by Dan Pettis of One20 Modern Bistro. There will also be a birthday cake, a cash bar, prizes, and a performance by local singer/songwriter Reed Waddle.
More events coming up will be a dinner aboard the Solaris yacht on May 9, and on Aug. 30 will be a 10-year reunion with Taylor's teammates to commemorate his passing.
"We will do something special on Aug. 30," said Brian.