Carbon monoxide poisoning killed a Georgia teen in his car last February. As a way to cope with his death, Logan Newell's family started a foundation in his honor with the goal of helping needy families in the area.
Wednesday, the foundation brought Christmas to Taylor Park in St. Albans. The Logan J. Newell Foundation has raised thousands of dollars since the 17-year-old's death last winter. It's been 10 months of sadness for his family, but Wednesday night was all about celebration. As part of the event, called "Christmas from Logan," his family and friends handed out more than 260 gifts to children under the age of 10 in Taylor Park. It also included sleigh rides, carolers, holiday treats and, of course, a visit from Santa.
Logan's mom says Christmas was her son's favorite holiday. And she sat down to speak exclusively to WCAX News about the past year's struggles and the family's hopes for the future of the foundation.
"Losing a child is... I can't even describe the pain," Heidi Hughes said.
It's been a heartbreaking 10 months for Georgia mom Heidi Hughes. Her son, Logan Newell, was killed days after his 17th birthday. This will be the family's first Christmas without their youngest son.
"Ohhhh... he was my elf," Heidi said "He was always the one to help me carry down presents, just so he could open one to re-wrap so his father didn't know."
Last February police found Logan's body at the St. Albans town park and ride inside his older model Volkswagen Jetta. Tests revealed two leaks in the exhaust system. One by the air intake valve caused exhaust to be sucked into Logan's car when the heat was on, filling it almost instantly with lethal levels of carbon monoxide. Police say they had spotted Logan there before, reportedly feeling tired and nauseous. But no one suspected he was being poisoned.
"As a mom, I'm supposed to protect my child and I felt I let him down," Heidi said. "And I live with that every day."
Police say Logan's car was properly inspected. But as a birthday gift, his parents ordered him a new muffler. It arrived the day after Logan died. Now, his mom has a warning for other parents.
"I allowed Logan many a times to change a muffler, but they're only kids. They really don't know what they're doing... It might be cool and it might look good but that doesn't mean their kid is safe," Heidi said. "Your kid's got a bad muffler, bring it in. If you need money, come to the foundation."
Logan's family created a foundation in his name shortly after his death. The goal is to provide financial assistance to those who need it in Franklin County. The organization doesn't dole out cash, but will buy food or fuel and will pay for things like medical expenses, even Christmas trees. Heidi says her son had two passions-- driving tractors and helping others. This foundation allows her to honor his memory.
"I can focus on something rather than just losing Logan," Heidi said. "We haven't had a lot of people come to us and say, 'Hey, we need a little help.' That's what it's there for."
And next year, the foundation plans to tackle carbon monoxide awareness, the colorless, odorless gas dubbed the silent killer.
"We've heard from many people that the tragic loss of Logan has helped at least save a couple kids because we know their parents went and checked their cars and found the same leaks in their mufflers," said Lisa Hayden, Logan's aunt.
Logan continuing to save lives after his was taken too soon.
"His dad, myself, his brother had 17 short years with Logan, but he truly left us with a lifetime of memories and he will always own a place in all of our hearts," Heidi said.
Hearts that are healing this holiday season with every child who receives a gift in Logan's name.
"That's the first time in 10 months that I saw his father excited about anything we have done. And I knew it was the right thing to do," Heidi said. "If I just see one kid smile, that will make my day."
To learn more about the Logan J. Newell Foundation, Inc.:
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