Strong Foundation

Strong FoundationFamily and Friends Celebrate Taylor Haugen’s Life by Fostering More Kids Like Him  

By Wendy O. Dixon

Taylor Haugen was a passionate sports fan. He especially loved the Florida Gators. He was on the junior varsity (JV) football and wrestling teams at Niceville High School. He had a 4.0 grade point average, was in the National Honor Society, and was a member of Key Club and the NaGISA Dive Team. He was comfortably expressive about his faith in God. And he cherished his friends and family, who called him “T.”

SOARING EAGLE Taylor Haugen, a Niceville High School student who died in a football accident, had a sweet spirit that inspired loved ones to create a foundation in his name. Photo courtesy Haugen Family.

Taylor, 15, a sophomore wide receiver for Niceville’s JV football team, died Aug. 30, 2008, from injuries suffered in a collision with two Fort Walton Beach High School players during a football game.

In an essay he wrote for school eight days before he died, Taylor stated that his motto was “Never give up, don’t ever give up.” He continued, “I think of that quote every time I feel like quitting something, then I drive on and push through the tough times.”

Taylor’s parents, Brian and Kathy Haugen, are driving on, pushing through the tough times following the loss of their only son by establishing a foundation in his memory.

“Taylor was bigger than life. He never met anyone who didn’t like him. He warmed a room with his entrance,” Brian Haugen said. “Kathy and I have always said Taylor embodied all our good qualities and none of the bad ones.”

Billy Russell, youth minister at First United Methodist Church of Niceville, said of Taylor, “Of all the kids in our ministry over the years, Taylor was without a doubt the most comfortable in his own skin. He truly loved out loud.”

The Taylor Haugen Foundation was created in the spirit of Taylor’s extraordinary character, the mission of the foundation being to provide scholarships to faith-based, outgoing, community-oriented, academically proficient athletes in the local community.

“(The foundation) gave me a reason to get out of bed every day,” Brian Haugen explained. “We were so blessed with the love and support from the community, and we wanted to make sure T’s legacy lives on.”

Taylor’s friends, grief-stricken, put their collective skills to use by making thousands of ribbons for those who attended the funeral and selling T-shirts to raise money. It was the students who suggested the foundation, Haugen said.

With the support of the Niceville High School Information Technology Department, Taylor’s friends created a Web site for the foundation – The accounting firm Carr, Riggs & Ingram donated its services to assist the foundation in obtaining 501(c)3, tax-exempt status. Bit-Wizards, a company that offers custom software solutions, donated the upgraded Web site design.

The All Sports Association, which created the Danny Wuerffel Trophy – a national award named after the former University of Florida quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner that honors the college football player who best combines exemplary community service with outstanding academic and athletic achievement – has created an award at the local level in Taylor’s memory. The Taylor Haugen Trophy will be awarded to the athlete who most embodies those same characteristics.

“My friends are the best friends in the world,” Taylor wrote in his essay. “When I was younger, my mom gave me a saying to help me remember how to spell the word ‘friends.’ She would say, “The ‘i’ goes before the ‘e’ because you’ll have friends ’til the end. I know now that I will have friends ’til the end because they are always there for me and I am always there for them to help them in their struggles, too.”

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. For more information, visit