Last Thursday, May 21, the four children were reunited under one roof in their hometown of Groesbeck, thanks to the Kailee Mills Foundation.
The Kailee Mills Foundation is a Spring-based nonprofit that promotes seat belt awareness and provides financial assistance and counseling services for families who have lost a loved one in a car accident.
"Kailee Mills was in a car accident Oct. 28, 2017, and there were four teenagers in the car. It was Halloween weekend, and she removed her seat belt for a second to slide over to take a picture with her friend in the backseat. And in that moment, the driver got into an accident," said Briana McCulloch, Kailee's aunt and executive director of the Kailee Mills Foundation. "Everyone else was buckled, and they were all completely fine with no injuries, but because Kailee was unbuckled in that moment, she was actually ejected and killed immediately."
Since then, McCulloch, along with Kailee's parents, David and Wendy Mills, who serve as the nonprofit's president and operations manager, respectively, have been working in the Spring community and beyond to spread Kailee's story and emphasize the importance of wearing seat belts. The Kailee Mills Foundation has also been the spokesperson for the Texas Department of Transportation's Click It or Ticket campaign for two consecutive years, McCulloch said.
"David started doing research on statistics about seat belts and realized that it is a huge problem that he felt like wasn't talked about enough," McCulloch said. "I think it was kind of his way of healing to jump in and take action and just start using her legacy, because she was so well-known and so well-liked in the community, ... to spread awareness about seat belts and change lives."
Most recently, after hearing about their story, the foundation turned its attention to reuniting the Ferguson family.
"The kids are really, really great kids, and so when [David] went out and met with the family, he just felt so pulled to help them. And their situation was unique because they didn't just suffer a loss—it was four kids that lost both of their parents, and when that happened, they ended up getting displaced. And they were all living separately, and that was a time when they needed to be together more than ever so they could grieve their parents together," McCulloch said.
After five months of campaigning and setting up a GoFundMe for the family, the Kailee Mills Foundation was able to raise nearly $169,000 to purchase and furnish a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the Ferguson family's hometown, where the children now live with their grandmother. Any remaining funds will be used by the family for home-related expenses such as utilities and property taxes, McCulloch said.
"It was just a really tragic situation, and we just dug in our heels and said, 'We've got to help this family. We're going to do everything that we can do to get them a home so that they can be back together as a family, the way their parents would have wanted,'" McCulloch said. "It's the biggest thing that we've ever done."
In addition to surprising the family with a new home, the foundation was also able to award Bryston, the oldest Ferguson child, with a $20,000 scholarship, as he is planning to begin his college education this fall. As the children are big fans of baseball, McCulloch said the foundation was able to get Micky Mantle's son, David, to meet the children at the home's unveiling and gift them personalized baseball cards.
"Our goal was to have them in the house by the end of the school year, and we had them in the house the day before Bryston graduated from high school," McCulloch said.
Like many nonprofits, McCulloch said, the Kailee Mills Foundation has had to cancel most of its fundraising events over the past few months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. However, McCulloch said the nonprofit is planning to host a golf tournament in December, and registration for that event will open within the next month. Proceeds from events like these help the Kailee Mills Foundation continue its mission to promote seat belt safety and support families like the Fergusons.