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The Kailee Mills Foundation, Klein ISD come together in waves to save lives

October 12, 2018

Spectators at the Klein Collins High School vs. Klein Oak High School football game on Oct. 5, cheered about more than just the rivalry on the field.

Sponsored by The Kailee Mills Foundation in cooperation with Klein ISD, the community seat belt awareness event named “Wave to Save Lives” featured fans using towels to root for their respective teams. Event coordinators also prepared synchronized towel waves around the stadium to raise awareness for seat belt safety.

Almost a year ago, 16-year-old Klein Collins student Kailee Mills lost her life just outside her neighborhood in Spring in a single-vehicle rollover accident.

“Wendy (Kailee’s mother) and I are just very touched by the whole event,” said David Mills, Kailee Mills’ father. “We were literally in tears while we were watching everybody supporting the foundation and remembering and honoring Kailee in that way. It was a very special night for our whole family.”

Sitting in the back seat, Kailee fleetingly unbuckled her seat belt prior to the accident and was ejected from the vehicle. Her three friends wore their belts and survived.

“She was good about wearing her seat belt,” David Mills said. “(She was) only two blocks from home. (She) was only going a mile away and had just removed her seat belt three seconds before the crash.”

Kailee’s parents, David and Wendy Mills, then established The Kailee Mills Foundation to convey the message that seat belt use and traffic safety is important to teens everywhere.

The one-year anniversary of her death is on October 28.

“We shouldn’t let our friends and family get in a car without wearing their seat belts,” David Mills said. “It’s a conversation that should never stop and you always have to keep that conversation going.”

The nonprofit organization works in the community to raise seat belt and road safety awareness and provides aid to families who have lost a child in a similar manner.

That’s why they use Kailee as a perfect example.

“It’s not just about wearing the seat belt, but keeping it on the entire trip,” David Mills said.

Familiar setting

Even though Kailee attended Klein Collins, she was also very acquainted with Klein Oak.

“My daughter had a lot of friends at Klein Oak,” David Mills said. “We were so honored to see everybody.”

The foundation handed out mint green fan towels sporting the foundation logo to game attendees as they entered the stadium prior to the game as well as at a volleyball game earlier that day. The two events dedicated the game to Kailee.

The organization has gone through 10,000 towels during the past week in sporting events.

“It was very successful, we raised a lot of awareness for seat belts,” David Mills said. “Everybody was waving their towels.”

Klein Collins beat Klein Oak, 14-0, Friday evening Oct. 5, at Klein Memorial Stadium.

“They both had a great turnout, participation,” David Mills said.

The event was funded in part by a grant from State Farm Insurance.

Coaches, players and cheerleaders also displayed the mint green towels.

“It was really good to see all the students and parents supporting The Kailee Mills Foundation and seat belt awareness,” David Mills said.

Public service announcement videos and images were shown on the stadium’s video board encouraging people to always wear a seat belt.

Spreading the word

Sporting events like the District 15-6A matchup between the Tigers and Panthers is just one of many ways the foundation has been able to relay its message.

The South County Football League in The Woodlands also had a seat belt awareness day last month.

“The whole league, every team, all the parents and everybody wore the mint green shirts to raise awareness for seat belt safety,” David Mills said.

The organization also has seat belt checkups coming up in November.

“We go to high schools and we do seat belt checks as the students are leaving the parking lot,” David Mills said.

They do this through partnering up with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.

“We’ll stand with a uniformed officer at each exit of the school to make sure all the parents and students are buckled up when they’re leaving,” David Mills said. “If they’re not, we stop them and give them a bracelet, decal or something to remind them to always wear your seat belt; tell them a little bit about Kailee.”

For David and Wendy Mills, the goal is not about writing tickets.

“We’re just there to educate, raise awareness and let these kids know that their parents would be devastated if they didn’t make it home safe over something simple as buckling up,” David Mills said.

The foundation has already done five high schools during the first weeks of school and will attend five or six more throughout the month of November.

The big picture

Besides David, Wendy, the volunteers and officers who patrol the exits during checkups, there are also separate volunteers doing research.

“They’re standing by, taking notes,” David Mills said. “What we’re doing is keeping statistics on how many cars leave the parking lot, how many cars we stop and how many were not buckled up.”

The data from each high school is then put on a spreadsheet and compared.

“The high schools that have the worst numbers we actually offer to do an assembly at the high school where we do a presentation to the students about buckling up and Kailee,” David Mills said.

The assembly has been really successful and many high schools have already reached out.

The foundation also has their golf tournament coming up on December 3 at BlackHorse Gold Club.

“It’s going to be a really good fundraising charity golf tournament,” David Mills said.

In addition to raising money for seat belt safety awareness, the foundation awards college scholarships to youth affected by loss of a parent or sibling in a motor vehicle accident.

More information is available on the Kailee Mills Foundation’s website.

The Texas Department of Transportation will also be partnering up with the foundation as part of the Click It or Ticket campaign for 2019.

TxDOT states that wearing a seat belt reduces the risk of dying in a crash by 45 percent and up to 60 percent for pickup trucks.

“Kailee was the feature story this year and they want us to do it again next year,” David Mill said. “We’re looking forward to being a part of Click It or Ticket next year.”

alvaro.montano@chron.com

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