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Kailee Mills Foundation debuts billboard seat-belt awareness initiative

November 20, 2018

Kailee Mills and her smile will ensure motorists get to their holiday meals or door-busting deals safely.

The Kailee Mills Foundation and its partners, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office and outdoor advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor Americas, unveiled 10 a.m. Tuesday that they will begin a billboard campaign advocating seat-belt usage named “Buckle Up 4 Kailee.”

The billboard, at 19333 Hwy. 59, Humble, is the first of many — in the region and throughout major Texas cities — to carry the message.

As Sheriff Ed Gonzalez and David Mills, president of the Kailee Mills Foundation, noted, the timing was perfect as there will be a lot of traveling during the holiday season.

“We are saving lives, one seat-belt click at a time,” Gonzalez said. “You can make a difference.”

‘I hope she’s proud of us’

TxDOT last year logged a total of 928 fatalities due to people not wearing their seat belts. Thus far in 2018, Gonzalez said his deputies have reported 33 out of 111 traffic deaths that fit this category.

On Oct. 28, 2017, Kailee was going to a Halloween party with three other friends when she, riding in the back seat, removed her restraints to take a picture. When the car rolled over, the 16-year-old was ejected and killed. Her friends had minor injuries.

David said the billboard campaign is a major step-up compared to his last one conducted during the Klein Collins High School vs. Klein Oak High School football game on Oct. 5. “Wave to Save Lives” had attendees wave mint-green towels to cheer on their teams, raise awareness and honor Kailee.

“It’s such a powerful message — the amount of billboards that are going up around the state and how many lives are going to be impacted by seeing this,” he said. “She inspired us to do this.”

Wendy, Kailee’s mother, concurred with her husband David that this elevated campaign echoed their daughter’s optimistic nature.

“We hope that we can help save families’ lives so they don’t have to look at their daughter’s picture on the billboard,” she said. “I hope she’s proud of us.”

Evergreen legacy

Lee Vela, president of the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas, said that what “Buckle Up 4 Kailee” wants to impart on drivers will also be on the radio. Like the billboards, the message can be encountered in many markets.

“They are all running now,” he said. “If it saves just one life — it’s all worth it.”

Looking at the billboard, Diana, David’s sister and the foundation’s newsletter writer plus executive staff, said she could hear her niece laughing from above and displaying her trademark joyfulness.

“We’re just here trying to raise awareness for [wearing] seat-belts and hoping to pass Kailee’s legacy on,” she said. “We’re out in the community trying to help — that was what she did.”

More on the Spring-based Kailee Mills Foundation can be found at www.kaileemillsfoundation.org including how to donate, testimonials and a section commemorating those who have died called “Kailee’s Angels.”

A golf tournament from the foundation, “Drive to Save Lives,” is scheduled for Dec. 3.

nguyen.le@chron.com

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