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Taylor Haugen Foundation commemorates 10 years

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One of the organization’s proudest accomplishments, the YESS Program, is the only nonprofit in the country solely focused on abdominal injuries. The YESS program provides each player on a team with their own personal piece of state-of-the-art abdominal protection equipment.

It has been 10 years since the death of Niceville High School student, Taylor Haugen, rocked the Niceville community and entire Emerald Coast.

It was a new school year and with that, football season was kicking off in Niceville, Florida. Spirits were high and the Eagles were headed to play cross-town rivals, Fort Walton Beach Vikings. Taylor “T” Haugen was gearing up to hit the gridiron while his father, Brian Haugen, was deployed with the National Guard and while his mom, Kathy Haugen, rallied friends and grabbed a bleacher on the sidelines.

She was dressed in maroon and white ready to cheer on her son, a 15-year-old sophomore wide receiver at Niceville High. The game kicked off and within a matter of seconds, Taylor suffered a severe abdominal injury. This injury caused internal bleeding that ultimately led to Taylor’s death.

Niceville Taylor Haugen

Taylor “T” Haugen

The entire community was stunned, heartbroken and left asking questions. How could this happen? Wasn’t he wearing pads? Was this a freak accident or does this happen to other kids? Parents in the community were asking, “Could this happen to my child?”  The tragedy is one that no parent should ever have to go through, but nonetheless, the Haugen’s took their pain and gave it a purpose.

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With that, the Taylor Haugen Foundation was born. The Foundation was built with the mission to provide awareness, education, and abdominal injury protection to secondary aged schools and leagues in contact sports through its YESS Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety).  Along with the YESS Program, the Taylor Haugen Foundation also recognizes outstanding student athletes by giving awards and five scholarships each year for local students in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.

Ten years later, the Taylor Haugen Foundation is still making tremendous strides as an advocate for the sports injury awareness and prevention not only in Northwest Florida, but across the entire nation.

One of the organization’s proudest accomplishments, the YESS Program, is the only nonprofit in the country solely focused on abdominal injuries. The YESS program provides each player on a team with their own personal piece of state-of-the-art abdominal protection equipment. The gear individually form fits to each player to ensure they are protected at the same level as a players in the NFL.

The team is responsible for raising half of the money for the equipment and the foundation pays for the other half. The YESS program has grown nationally to 13 states and has provided proper abdominal injury protection to more than 4,500 players. This equates to over $317,000 that the Foundation has spent to provide safety equipment for student athletes.

The YESS Program gives parents, coaches and players the opportunity to recognize how prevalent these injuries are and informs them of the availability and affordability of the equipment capable of better protecting them from abdominal injury. If professional athletes and the NCAA are made aware of the severity of these injuries and are given the protective equipment, then the rest of the sports community nationwide should be too.

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The Foundation’s mission and the YESS program have been featured in major national media outlets including ESPN, Fox News, USA TODAY, CBS This Morning, NBC Nightly News and more.

The Foundation’s pillars are based on T’s characteristic traits, a balance of academics, athleticism, leadership, community service and Christian faith and are the reason behind the start of the Taylor Haugen scholarship. Each year the scholarship is awarded to five student-athletes in three local counties who demonstrate a perseverance to improve themselves in all aspects of their life while enjoying God’s gifts to the fullest.  Since its inception ten years ago, the Foundation has given out 44 scholarships, for a total of $61,000. These students are forever part of the Foundation family.

Aside from the scholarships, the Taylor Haugen Foundation also awards a trophy for similar criteria each winter at the annual All Sports Association FCA breakfast. The trophy is presented each year by hometown legend, Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL quarterback, Danny Wuerffel. The recipient is a local student that fulfills the “Don’t Quit – Never Give Up” spirit by persevering in the face of adversity and continuing to excel in their studies and athletics.  Recipients of the trophy also receive a $1,000 scholarship upon nomination and meeting the six criteria specified. Since 2008, the trophy has been given to ten area athletes and continues to encourage and recognize students who excel in the Foundation’s five pillars of excellence.

Although his 15 years were cut short, Taylor has already made an incredible impact on his community. The motto, “Don’t Quit – Never Give Up” speaks truth to the Foundation’s never-ending dedication to keeping Taylor’s story alive and providing the necessary safety precautions to schools in hopes to build awareness that abdominal injuries are real and to potentially save the lives of athletes.

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