A Promise to Abbey
A PROMISE TO ABBEY
Scott Taylor made a pledge to his daughter that he intends to keep. After 6-year old Abigail, called Abbey, was critically injured in a pool drain accident in June 2007, she asked her dad to promise that "what happened to her would never happen to another child.""Those were Abbey's words," Scott said. "I told her I would do everything I could to let people know how to keep their kids safe. I promised I would talk to as many people as I could."
A father's promise is the mission behind Abbey's Hope Charitable Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy organization launched last year by Scott and his wife, Katey, in memory of Abbey, who died in March 2008. The accident in the kiddie pool at the Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park that disemboweled Abbey left her in need of a triple organ transplant. She received a new liver, small bowel and pancreas in January 2008 but developed a rare transplant-related cancer that eventually caused her death.
In May 2008, Gov. Pawlenty signed Minnesota's Abigail Taylor Pool Safety Act. The first phase stipulated that by January 2009 all pools 4 feet deep or less had to have an unblockable drain or be equipped with dual main drains to prevent entrapment; by January 2011, all pools over 4 feet deep must have the same equipment. Regular inspections and maintenance are also required under the law.
Both the Minnesota law and the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Safety Act, which mandates domed covers over pool drains (resulting in less powerful suction), apply only to commercial swimming pools such as those found in municipalities, clubs and apartment complexes.
"Since these laws don't apply to back yard pools, we are trying to keep parents thinking about their own pools or their neighbor's pool and how to make sure they are safe," Scott said.
The Taylors, who live in Edina, are grateful Abbey's story has spurred people nationwide to take action. "We've heard from so many people who tell us they have gone to their city officials to talk about public pools," Katey said. "A few months ago, I got an onslaught of e-mails from Ohio after a story about Abbey aired on local television. They were all getting on the bandwagon."
In addition to raising awareness about pool safety, Abbey's Hope Charitable Foundation promotes organ donation and provides opportunities at its events for people to register as donors.
Abbey's death has taken its toll on the Taylor family. "We have good days and bad days. We're honest enough to say that," Katey said. Her loss caused a shift in the family dynamic, altering the "bigs" and "littles" status shared by Abbey and her sister Grace, 10, with Christina, 4 and Audrey, 3.
"We worry most about Grace. Her life changed dramatically that day, but she is a very good soul," Scott said. "Overall, I think we're doing OK."
The Taylors are preparing for the second annual Abbey's Hope Golf Tournament at Edina Country Club on Sept. 14.
"This year, we want to honor Abbey's legacy," Scott said. "We've done so much in the past year to raise awareness and we are going to keep moving forward."
Julie Pfitzinger is a West St. Paul freelance writer.
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