Swimming is a highlight of summer, especially for children. Splashing around, playing Marco Polo and floating on rafts until their skin becomes as wrinkled as a prune is a joyful experience. Unfortunately, there are also dangers of which parents and caregivers need to be made aware.
Abbey’s Hope Charitable Foundation, founded in 2008, does this and more, and leading the crusade are Abbey’s parents, Scott and Katey Taylor of Edina. “My background is in public health and education, so everything I had learned as a young professional was prevention,” says Katey. “I thought I had parented the ‘safe way,’ but it's hard to protect your children from something that you don't know is dangerous.”
In March 2008, despite her knowledge and vigilance, Katey lost her beautiful, funny and sweet 6-year-old-daughter, Abigail (Abbey) Rose, from injuries sustained from being entrapped by an improperly maintained pool drain in an area kiddie pool in June of 2007. “I was 10 feet away from her,” she says. “She was a swimmer, so it wasn't a matter of supervision or swimming ability. But I didn't even know that something like that could be a danger.”
What most people don’t realize is that the drains at the bottom of pools, spas and even wading pools can be very dangerous. It is so important that each one of the drains in every venue have an anti-entrapment drain cover.
“Abbey's wish from her hospital bed was that this type of injury would never happen to another child, and that is the simple mission of our organization,” says Katey.
The Abigail Taylor Act was signed into law in Minnesota in May 2008. It calls for all Minnesota public pools to include anti-entrapment materials and mechanisms, and that pool operators physically inspect drain covers to ensure compliance. The Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act passed by Congress and signed by President Bush does for the nation what the Abigail Taylor Act does for the State of Minnesota.
Drowning is another huge issue, especially for children. “Drowning is the leading cause of death in children ages 1 through 4,” says Katey.
“Our goal is to educate and advocate,” explains Alison Petri, Abbey’s Hope program manager. “The majority of people who drown in Minnesota are considered good swimmers and therefore there's a fallacy in believing they don't need a life jacket on a boat or to go down to the river or the creek to swim. Swimming well is only part of the equation.”
In early June of 2020, Alison says there was a two-week period of really warm weather when there were several drownings in the Metro area and across Minnesota. “We were on track to having the worst drowning year statistically because a lot of the lifeguarded beaches and pools were closed due to COVID, so people were swimming in open water settings with no guards. Swimming lessons were also not available due to COVID restrictions.
“Abbey’s Hope very quickly decided to do something about it by throwing together resources and utilizing our generous benefactors to give out life jackets to those who couldn't afford them.” As of today, the organization has given out over 3000 life jackets approaching close to $100,000.
It has also purchased swimsuits for children whose parents couldn’t afford them and has been offering free swimming lessons with its parks and recreation partners.
“We couldn't do this without our community partners, and we're always looking for additional support because there’s a great need,” says Alison. “We have our annual golf tournament coming up on September 11th at Olympic Hills in Eden Prairie. We would love key sponsorships and for people to come out and play. Additionally, we could use volunteers on the day of the event. That's a big, easy way to help us. Another simple way to get involved is to follow us on social media and share our educational messages.”
Adds Katey, “We're living out her legacy and every time I can say her name or tell her story, it's keeping her with us, and we hope to protect kids today and in the future.”