The Whitney Young Children’s Foundation grew out of a tragedy that befell our family in the fall of 2006. Whitney, our youngest child, was nineteen and attending Mesa Junior College in San Diego. She was living in an apartment adjacent to California State University San Diego. One of her best girl friends from Palos Verdes Estates lived in the same building. The girls went to a party on Saturday night, November 11th and then grabbed a late night snack. They were walking home with three other students early on Sunday morning. They heard a speeding car approaching them but reassured each other, “Oh he sees us!” Whitney was the last pedestrian and she was hit by the speeding car…and then the driver sped off.
We received that phone call that every parent dreads. The woman identified herself as a San Diego Police officer. She told us Whitney had been hit while crossing the street, she was unconscious and she was being transported to Scripps Mercy Hospital. She told us to come as quickly as we could. We left within twenty minutes. En route, a trauma surgeon from the ICU called to check on our progress. He told us Whitney was very seriously injured and to hurry. When we arrived at the ICU, we were met by the neurosurgeon who immediately told us, “You have to assume your daughter is going to die; I just can’t tell you when. The next few days will be a roller coaster so hang on tight.”
Logan drove from northern California and Jonathan flew in from New York. Relatives and Whitney’s friends arrived from all over the US. For four days, we all stood vigil at her bedside. Whitney had suffered extensive brain injuries and the intra-cranial pressure was very difficult, if not impossible to control. She never regained consciousness and she never suffered.
Meanwhile the San Diego Police Department and local television stations mounted a campaign to find the car and the driver involved in the accident. On Thursday, Nov. 16th, around 8 a.m., a patrol officer spotted a car with front end damage matching the description offered by detectives. Remnants from the car left at the scene of the accident were brought to the site and they matched exactly. The owner of the car, a twenty year old young man, was arrested and taken into custody.
Around 1:30 p.m., later on November 16th, our precious, beautiful daughter—our baby—lost her valiant battle to stay alive and she was declared brain dead by the doctors. We were blessed by having four days to be by her side and hug and kiss her before she died. At this darkest hour of our lives, we were comforted by the outpouring of love and concern shown Whitney and our family and we will be forever grateful.
We were also comforted by knowing that in the next few days, there would be six families rejoicing because their loved ones would be receiving Whitney’s beautiful heart, her liver, her two kidneys and her corneas. Whitney gave these recipients the gift of life and sight. It helps us to know that Whitney will live on forever. We are also thrilled that others have signed up for organ donation because of the example we provided.
The Birth of the Foundation
Whitney loved children and they loved her. She was always the pied piper at family outings and law firm events –organizing the kids and entertaining them. She loved volunteering at Pediatric Therapy Network and working in the Leaps and Bounds Program and at the Camp Escapades Summer Camp. One day, she hoped to become a teacher. Thus, at the time of Whitney’s memorial service we stated that to honor Whitney’s memory and her unfulfilled ambitions, we planned to create a foundation to touch children –children with whom Whitney never had an opportunity to interact. Out of this concept has emerged the Whitney Young Children’s Foundation.
Our Involvement with MADD
Although there was no blood alcohol to test, it turned out that the driver was drunk and consequently we have become very involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The District Attorney investigated the case very thoroughly and reconstructed the events leading up to the accident. She was able to prove that the driver had been drinking since 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and witnesses testified that he was drunk throughout the evening. His friends allowed him to drive drunk and ten minutes later he struck Whitney and then drove off. He had a prior DUI at 19 when he struck a tree with his car and then attended DUI classes. He was charged with second degree murder, gross vehicular manslaughter and felony hit and run. He eventually plea bargained and was sentenced to 11 years in the state penitentiary. Sadly, this entire tragedy—both for our family and his family –was totally preventable.
Whitney’s tragic and senseless death at age 19 has been devastating for our family. We miss Whitney every day. To honor her memory, we try to find positive ways we can help society — whether that be by promoting organ donation, fighting drunk driving or helping children’s causes though the Whitney Young Children’s Foundation.