Taylor’s parents, Brian and Kathy Haugen, have established a scholarship foundation in their son’s memory
September 27, 2008 – 3:51PM
Daily News contributing writer
A community shaken with grief four weeks ago following the tragic accident that claimed the life of 15-year-old Taylor Haugen during a football game will soon be able to remember him in a way that will carry on his memory for future generations.
Brian and Kathy Haugen, parents of the Niceville High School junior varsity football player known as “T,” have announced the creation of “The Taylor Haugen Foundation,” a scholarship fund established in memory of their son.
The idea for the foundation originated with Taylor’s friends and peers at Niceville High School. Following Taylor’s death Aug. 30, Brian Haugen heard of plans for fund-raisers initiated by students in an effort to raise money to establish a scholarship in Taylor’s memory. Moved by the idea, Taylor’s parents created the foundation.
“When I spoke to some of my advisers, we all felt this foundation could become a terrific way to remember T and also provide scholarships for kids like T,” Brian Haugen said.
What made Taylor Haugen a truly exceptional person, his father said, was his selflessness among his friends, his commitment to every activity he participated in and his devotion to Christ. Taylor was described by his father as being an outgoing, community service-oriented, and faith-based athlete who always gave 110 percent.
“I would initially like to see this as something awarded once a year to a student who best reflects those attributes,” Haugen said.
Taylor, a sophomore wide receiver, was fatally injured in a collision with two Fort Walton Beach High School players during the junior varsity half of the Eagles’ Kickoff Classic Aug. 29. He died the next morning at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.
Taylor’s peers, through the support of the Niceville High School Information Technology Department, have established a Web site for the foundation at www.TaylorHaugen.org.
“We are really excited about the Web site,” Brian Haugen said. “Who better to create the site than his own friends and peers at his school?”
In addition to the junior varsity football team, Taylor also was a member of the wrestling team, the National Honor Society, Key Club and the NaGISA Dive Team. He also was a PAL soccer referee.
Billy Russell, youth minister at First United Methodist Church of Niceville, where Taylor attended, said that of all the kids involved in the ministry over the years, Taylor was the “most comfortable in his own skin.”
“This foundation is a fitting tribute to a remarkable soul,” Russell said.
Numerous professional athletes and well-known residents along the Emerald Coast have contacted Brian Haugen and expressed interest in being part of the foundation.
“We are not sure at this time what the involvement will be of these well-known figures, whether on the board of directors or through fundraising, but there has been a small outpouring at a local and national level,” Haugen said.
Former Fort Walton Beach High School and Florida Gators quarterback Danny Wuerffel is among those interested.
“I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Taylor,” Wuerffel said in a news release. “While I can’t offer any reason why the Lord would call him home so early, I hope and pray that somehow the Haugen family will still be able to lean on Jesus and draw near to Him. Creating this foundation to commemorate Taylor’s life is a bright moment in an otherwise difficult and tragic time.”
Taylor, who was a diehard Gators fan, shared time on the gridiron with the 1996 Heisman Trophy winner.
Each year, Grace Lutheran Church of Destin holds the “Toilet Bowl,” a football game between the youths and youth leaders of local churches, Brian Haugen said. Tired of falling to the leaders year after year, the youths called on Wuerffel, who agreed to join them as their quarterback two years ago. During last year’s game, Taylor caught a touchdown pass from Wuerffel to put the youths in the lead.
“(The youth) went on to win the game and I always said that T’s first touchdown pass was thrown by Danny Wuerffel,” Haugen said, laughing.
Currently, the foundation‘s board of directors is made up of Taylor’s parents and Brian Haugen’s father, retired Brig. Gen. Donald Haugen. A number of residents have volunteered their time and expertise serving on steering committees for accounting, legal services and technology.
Brian Haugen also has established a committee of Taylor’s friends, peers and mentors to assist in locating and researching potential scholarship candidates. It is not known when the first scholarship might be awarded.
“During the funeral, it was mentioned that T was always mentored by a neighbor across the street who was about six years older than him,” Brian Haugen explained. “(Taylor) did the same thing with other kids. He was always passing it on, and this is supposed to do the same.”
Taylor’s constant determination also was something to be admired, his father said. He lived by the mantra, “Don’t Quit – Never Give Up.”
According to his father, Taylor’s devotion to never giving up was most evident in his dedication to the sport he loved. Although he was blessed with tremendous endurance, Taylor did not have the natural reflexes of some standout football players.
“Taylor constantly worked on his football skills, though it didn’t come by easily,” Brian Haugen recalled. “But his heart was so big, and he always wondered, ‘I love this so much, how come I’m not better at it,’ but he never stopped working at it.”
Taylor’s mantra will not only be remembered by his friends and family, but also will be the official motto of the new 226th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, a National Guard Unit in Mobile, Ala., of which his father, a lieutenant colonel, is a member.
“That will be historical for now and forever as long as that unit exists,” Brian Haugen said.
The Taylor Haugen Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to: The Taylor Haugen Foundation, P.O. Box 101, Valparaiso, FL 32580.