Couple turns tragedy into safety quest
Talk to any parents who have lost a child to an early death and they will tell you it is the worst thing that could ever happen to a family.
Ed Beaudette and Heidi Obenoskey of Banner Mountain could tell you that about their nine-month-old Nora, who died in a vehicle accident last year when Ed fell asleep at the wheel. But they will also tell you there is something constructive coming out of their tragedy.
Ed and Heidi had gone back east for a wedding and were driving home from the Reno airport. Nora was in her child safety seat crying, and Heidi crawled into the back seat to comfort the infant and cool her off.
Heidi had taken Nora’s shirt off and had undone the car seat straps to do so. Just as Heidi was starting to strap Nora back in, Ed fell asleep.
Heidi has recovered from major injuries, and during that time she and Ed decided they had to do something to get through it all. They heard about a child car seat safety group in Truckee “and became impassioned about it,” Ed said.
Since then they have been involved in child care safety checks in the region, “as kind of a therapy,” Heidi said, “but most important, it’s getting something done to save kids.”
“If there’s any way to parlay Nora’s death into saving a kid’s life, we’ll do that,” Ed said.
Through the Placer County chapter of Safe Kids, the couple learned how to properly install and do checks on child car safety seats. Soon, Heidi’s parents Ty and Susan Obenoskey and other daughter Brooke Echols had all taken a course to become certified child car seat inspectors.
“I’m the grandfather who couldn’t fix it,” Ty said with a tear in his eye. But he and the rest of the family soon started their crusade, traveling on weekends around the region to help at child seat check events.
What they learned shocked them.
At the first seat check event they went to, “over 400 were checked and less than a handful passed,” Ed said. “Safe Kids estimates 90 percent of them are put in wrong.”
To begin with, most people think any child safety seat can protect their children in any car. Ed and Heidi now know better.
“Before our accident we had a child car seat and we thought everything was correct,” Heidi said. “We didn’t have the harness tight enough, we had the wrong seat for a child less than one-year old and 20 pounds and we had it in the wrong position.”
What they learned in the 40-hour class to become registered child seat checkers is that many things are involved.
There are all kinds of seat belts and car seats that do not necessarily match up to individual child safety seats, Heidi said. “Some of these seats just don’t fit in come cars.”
According to Ed, “If you can move a car seat one inch left to right or one inch front to back, that seat is improperly installed.”
During the half-hour checks, the family members evaluate if the child safety seat is appropriate for the car it is in and for the age, height and weight of the child. It is also checked against a 35-page list of defective and recalled child safety seats.
After that, the checkers look to see if the seat is installed correctly and if it is not, they show the parents how to do so.
The family’s first check event in Nevada County last May 1 at the Day of the Young Child celebration. It made for more than a poignant day when Ed and Heidi’s new baby Ellery was born that afternoon.
Ed, Heidi and the rest of their family now want to bring their expertise to anybody who wants it at anytime in Nevada County. They want to do that through forming a county chapter of Safe Kids, which also deals with water flotation devices and helmets for kids on skates, bikes or scooters.
“We’re raising money for those who can’t afford them,” Ed said. “We just don’t want this to happen to any other kid in our county.”
How to help
To donate to the Nevada County Safe Kids Program or to help needy children get car seats, flotation devices and riding helmets, go to any Placer Savings Bank location and ask for the Nora Beaudette Memorial Fund.
To contact the family, call them at (530) 477-8111 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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