A very special donation event took place in Tennessee last Thursday, Oct. 11, in the name of sports safety and two young athletes who died playing the game they love. Through the YESS Program (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety), officials from the Taylor Haugen Foundation and EvoShield went to Millington, Tenn., to outfit the entire Millington Central High School football program with some of EvoShield’s revolutionary protective football equipment. All 149 players from the combined Trojan varsity and JV squads, including players from the local junior high feeder system, were specially fitted with EvoShield Youth Protective Rib Shirts, donated by the Foundation’s YESS Program, in memory of Dana Payne and Taylor Haugen.
Haugen was a wide receiver on the Niceville (Fla.) High School junior varsity football team. On Aug. 30, 2008, the 15-year-old sophomore died from injuries sustained from being hit by two opponents while attempting to catch a pass during a game.
A similar tragedy struck Millington High’s football team just before the start of this season, when Payne – also a 15-year-old, sophomore wide receiver – died Aug. 21, shortly after being tackled hard while going for a pass in practice.
With rising concern about organized sports injuries and fatalities, the Taylor Haugen Foundation, perhaps the only non-profit that specializes in this type of youth protection, strives to help better protect today’s young athletes. Its YESS (Youth Equipment for Sports Safety) Program works to provide youth sports protection gear to individuals, teams and leagues. Since hard hits to the body led to the football deaths of both Haugen and Payne, the Foundation is providing the EvoShield Rib Shirts to Millington High with the hope that similar incidents might be avoided.
EvoShield’s signature Protective Rib Shirt offers ultra-thin, high-impact protection for the ribs. Using a Gel-to-Shell™ technology, soft gel pads are transformed into lightweight, custom-molded, protective Shields. The energy from impacts is dispersed by the Shields – not absorbed as with traditional foams and hard plastics – providing athletes strong protection, without sacrificing their mobility or performance. Brian and Kathy Haugen, Taylor’s parents and founders of the Taylor Haugen Foundation, was joined by EvoShield representatives in Millington for Thursday’s player fitting operation.
Both Taylor Haugen and Dana Payne were passionate about football and were popular student-athletes. Haugen was known for his devotion to faith, family, friends, academics and sports. He is also remembered for his mantra of “Don’t quit…Never give up,” which has become the Taylor Haugen Foundation’s battle cry. Payne, who in addition to receiver also played defensive back at Millington, was a warm, outgoing individual who participated in the student ROTC. He had his sights set on attending the Naval Academy.
Each year, more than 30,000 high school athletes are treated for avoidable injuries. In addition, another 3.5 million children ages 14 and under receive medical care for sports mishaps. The Taylor Haugen Foundation and EvoShield have partnered to raise awareness of the importance of safety equipment among young athletes. As a Foundation partner, EvoShield makes its protection equipment available through the YESS Program in order to help better educate and equip students and parents of the type of modern equipment often worn by pros and college players but rarely known to middle school and high school athletes and coaches.