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Parents Making Change

Parents Making Change

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Published by pflagatl
Parents Making Change
Parents Making Change

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Published by: pflagatl on Apr 09, 2011
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ParentsWhoChange the World
May 2011
On an easy summer evening
in June 2007, Scott and Katey Taylor decided to take three o their our young daughtersor dinner and an evening swim at their suburban Minneapolis gol course. An active amily,the Taylors loved the water and took every opportunity to spend time together outside.
As the daylight aded, Scott took one o theirdaughters, Christina, 2, home while Katey usheredGrace, 8, and some pals to the shower. That’s whenshe looked back and saw 6-year-old Abbey in thewading pool sitting down with a strange look on herace. Katey called to her to join them.She knew something was wrong the minute herdaughter stood up. Obviously dizzy, Abbey took aew sideways steps and ell, knocking out her ronttooth and hitting her head on the pool deck beoreplunging into the adult pool.Several hours and one emergency surgery later,doctors told the Taylors news that no parent couldever prepare or, much less imagine. Despite theact that there had been not a speck o blood atthe site o the accident, Abbey’s small intestine hadbeen ripped rom her body by the suction rom anuncovered pool drain in the kiddie pool.In those panic-stricken days o her rst hospitalstay, Abbey asked Katey i she was going to beon television. Abbey was a showgirl—the kind o child who could belt out all the lyrics to
HighSchool Musical 
—so her parents gured she wasdreaming about being amous. But Abbeywasn’t ocused on her beloved Hanna Montana.Lying in her hospital bed, the 6-year-old showedshe was wise beyond her years. “I need to makesure that what happened to me doesn’t happento someone else,” she said. Her words wouldchange the course o the Taylors’ lives.Abbey died nine months later, ater 16 surgeriesincluding a triple organ transplant to replace herliver, small intestine, and pancreas. But her parentsnever orgot that conversation with their cherishedlittle girl. With the support o Minnesota’s U.S.Senator Amy Klobuchar, the Taylors helped reviveand pass the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool & SpaSaety Act, a ederal law named or a 7-year-oldgirl—Graeme, to her amily—who drowned aterbeing pinned underwater by hundreds o poundso suction orce rom a hot-tub drain. The bill,passed in 2008, bans the manuacture, sale, ordistribution o drain covers that don’t meetanti-entrapment saety standards and requires theuse o less powerul drainage systems. It hadoriginally been championed by Nancy Baker,Graeme’s mother, who had lobbied or three yearsto get the bill passed. When it stalled, Katey andScott’s support gave the legislation the nal push itneeded to be signed into law.The Taylors also successully lobbied or thestate-level Abigail Taylor Pool Saety Act. Itrequires all existing pools and spas that are opento the public to bring their drain covers up tostandards. Those pools are also now required tobe licensed and inspected by the MinnesotaDepartment o Health.Getting those laws passed wasn’t easy. TheTaylors spent countless hours meeting withpoliticians, and learning the legislative process. Theygraciously told their heartbreaking story to themedia and anyone else who would listen.The Taylors aren’t as unique as you mightimagine. Across the United States, parents, manyo whom are coping with unathomable losses,become citizen lobbyists in the hope that otheramilies won’t have to suer the same senselesstragedies. Whether they’re ghting or ood saety,improved car standards, bullying prevention, orautism-insurance reorm, these mothers andathers claw their way through the tangle o politicsand bureaucracy, all in the name o their children.
previous spread: dimitri vervitsiotis/getty images. this page, from left: courtesy of emma willard school; getty images (2); time & life pictures/getty images.
May 2011
Moms and Dads Make Laws and History
Women’s-rights advocate andmom o one
E Willrd
 opens the Troy FemaleSeminary (now the EmmaWillard School) in Troy, NewYork. It’s the rst school in theUnited States to oer girls aneducation equal to that or boys.
Labor rights activist and momo our
“mother” mr HrrisJones
leads striking childrenrom the tetile mills o Kensington, Pennsylvania, toPresident Theodore Roosevelt’shome on Long Island, NewYork. They carry banners saying“We want time to play!” and“We want to go to school!”
As the most infuential membero the United Nations’Commission on Human Rights,ormer First Lady and mother o si
Elenor Rooseelt
cheerswhen the General Assemblyadopts The UniversalDeclaration o Human Rights,Among its eatures: giving rightsto kids born to single moms.
Olier Brown
triesunsuccessully to enroll his7-year-old daughter, Linda, in awhite school in Topeka, Kansas.In 1954, the Supreme Courtrules that it is unconstitutionalto segregate children in schools.
Lasting Legacies
For many parents, advocating or laws that protect children isa passionate act o remembering. “To have your child erasedrom the earth is horriying,” says Long Island, New York,mother Adriann Raschdor-Nelson, whose 16-month-old son,Alec, was killed when a beloved elderly relative backed overhim because o zero rearview visibility in an SUV. Togetherwith her husband, Bill Nelson, they successully lobbied orAlec’s Law, which mandates that all Long Island residents whobuy or lease a car receive a brochure with inormation aboutthe rear blind zone and preventing accidental backovers.It took two years to pass the local legislation, but pushingthrough a law at the ederal level oten takes much longer.“The range is a couple o years to never—never being themost common,” says Janette Fennell, the president andounder o KidsandCars.org, a nonprot that advocates orimproved car saety. Yet even knowing that there’s littlechance o a simple success, parents press on.The Nelsons also met with then Senator Hillary RodhamClinton and testied in Washington, D.C., in support o ederal legislation, now passed, that makes it impossible toput a car into gear without a oot on the brake and or allvehicles manuactured starting in 2014 to be equipped with arearview camera. “Instead o blaming somebody, we lookedor opportunities to make a dierence with Alec’s lie,” saysBill Nelson. “It’s emotional and it brings us back to where wewere when Alec died, but it helps us to help others.”Kim and Ken Hansen, o West Seneca, New York,understand intimately what motivates the Nelsons to keeppushing or improved saety laws. The couple lost their16-year-old daughter and only child, Amanda, when she waspoisoned by a carbon-monoxide leak at a sleepover. “A weekater she passed away it hit me that there was something Ihad to do so that it wouldn’t happen to another amily,” saidKen. “I knew that I needed to get carbon-monoxide detectorsin homes.” Today, Amanda’s Law requires most houses andapartments in New York State to have working detectors.I Amanda had lived, the Hansens would be spending theirweekends looking at colleges. Instead, they devote their reetime to educating people about carbon-monoxide poisoningand distributing CO detectors at places such as The HomeDepot and re stations. “The pain is always there, but everytime we speak that’s one more amily Amanda is protecting,”says Ken, his voice breaking. “That’s what it’s all about or us.”
Not Just Politics
A parent’s passion is a powerul tool or pushing throughlegislation. “When we meet with a mother or ather andhear the story o how their child died because o adangerous product, it uels our commitment to implementlaws that can save lives,” says Scott Wolson, director o theOce o Inormation and Public Aairs at the U.S.Consumer Product Saety Commission. Fennell is moreblunt: “You can’t just turn away rom a grieving parent.”These kinds o tragedies irrevocably change not only aparent’s daily routine but also how she sees hersel in theworld. “I always thought I was a strong person, but I didn’trealize the depth o that inner strength,” says HeatherVandenberghe, o New York City, whose 3-year-olddaughter, Elle, was injured, almost atally, when she was hit bya reckless driver who was reversing into a parking space whileElle and her nanny were walking to her preschool.

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