Today’s post was written by one of our special Graco Nation members – and passionate child passenger safety technician, Kristen Townsend. Thank you, Kristen!
‘Tis the Luck of the Irish is how the saying goes. Well, I’m basically 100% Irish, with a smidge of German tossed in for good measure, and thus I’m supposed to be lucky, right? Sure I’ve won a few contests here and there; I have an amazing family where I still reign as queen bee amongst 4 boys (A husband, 2 children AND even the dog!!); and I feel pretty lucky having health and happiness. But luck to me is more than just a few bucks won on a scratch off ticket or even your name being drawn out of the hat at some holiday cookie party. Using a passion, the fuel that burns within and doing something about it – that will ALWAYS make you feel lucky!
I feel blessed to have been touched with the need and yearning for child passenger safety. People often ask me when I knew, how did I know this was what I was meant to do. It’s pretty simple actually… I was a nanny in college – 2 young boys aged 1 and 4 were in my care as mom and dad went off to work. I think knowing that the safety of these young boys rested in my hands and I didn’t even know how to put the seats into my car sparked the initial fire within. Their mother just assumed I knew how to install the seats and I, being a naïve 20something, felt somewhat embarrassed to say that I had no clue. I knew something was wrong when I turned the corner one morning as I headed to the park and the 1 year old’s seat fell over in the back. (Yes, we corrected the issue that very day when I told the mom about it!!!) Ughhh it pains me to think about it now and I’m so glad nothing serious happened. That sight from my rear view mirror has never left me, and instead propelled my passion even further.
It wasn’t, however, until I was pregnant with my first son, Colberoo, in 2007 that I realized how much this fire for child passenger safety burned inside me. I took it upon myself to find out every nitpicky detail about every car seat on the market at the time. I pondered, researched and ultimately realized this passion was in fact real and would take me to places I couldn’t predict even then. I spent my lunch hour at my desk at work, creating charts with features for every seat from every manufacturer and what their pros and cons were, price lists and fashion patterns. I HAD to know. I had to make sure my baby would be safe. I wanted to use the lesson I learned from those little boys I used to watch to make sure I did it right with my own child. Ultimately after all that charting, we ended up with our Graco Safe Seat Step 1 (what would now be the SnugRide 32) in the Fusion pattern and loved it – 2 children later (my second son, PJ, was born in 2009), we surely got our “bang for our buck” as the high height and weight limit for this seat allowed us to use it between 15-18 months EACH for my boys. Love that.
I quickly became the knowledge base for friends and family that cared. People would call to ask tips and tricks, advice on what seat to buy next or how to get their child to stop unbuckling that darn chest clip! (Which, after dozens of calls about this, I am convinced is a 2 year old rite of passage!) Yet those who were the ones who actually needed the advice, who don’t use the top tether, who prefer to use a “belly clip” instead of the appropriate “chest clip” are the ones who wouldn’t buy into it. They knew I may have “had a clue” but they weren’t convinced. Soooo, I took it upon myself to prove it to them and do the only thing I could think of that would convince them I knew what I was talking about. I had to take my knowledge to the next level for them AND for me. I went and took the 4 day course, and as of last year am now officially certified as a Child Passenger Safety Technician.
It was exactly what I needed to fuel that fire even more. I was now “armed” with the knowledge and the title. I could make the connections I needed to finally DO SOMETHING about this issue that plagues our families. Parents think they know, but may just not, may be too scared to ask or may just not realize they’re doing anything wrong. I am often reminded of that 20something version of myself that was too embarrassed to ask. I am LUCKY enough to have this passion to now be able to teach them. My story could go on and on and with each interaction I have a humbled heart being able to touch oh so many lives as a technician. I volunteer at as many seat check events as I can and offer my $.02 to every parent I can. To me the more seats I can get my hands on, the more people I can make aware, then the more children that are riding safe!
My “Luck of the Irish” continues as a Graco Nation member. I’ve been able to make some amazing connections with people I definitely would never have met and all because of this group. Sure I’ve never met any of these people in real life; however, the world of the internet sure can make you feel like you know someone on a genuine, personal level. I love feeling like I know so much about my Graco family. It was through this group that Graco recognized my true passion for child passenger safety. I was contacted months and months ago via email that Graco wanted to donate 5, yes 5, MyRide 65 car seats towards our local SafeKids coalition. I nearly fell off my chair as I read those words. Really? 5 MORE children who could be buckled up safe and secure just because of how I’ve expressed to them that I yearn to do more!! Amazing.
I had actually planned to hand deliver the seats during a seat check event I was going to that weekend but with some changing of positions and a transition in the coordinator at our SKs coalition I ended up keeping the seats in my attic for when the need arose. And actually over the last several months I’ve happily placed ALL 5 seats in very good homes and was able to keep children who were riding in either nothing, a booster that was not age appropriate, or expired seats (with parents who had no financial ability to purchase something appropriate) safe from harm because of Graco. Awesome!
I’ve been able to touch the lives of oh so many since I have been a CPST, however, the families that received these MyRide donations are that much more special to me. I was able to present them with such a gift, the gift of safety! Every situation has been unique as no two families are the same. There was “string bean”, a 4.5 year old who at 33 pounds couldn’t fit in a booster yet size wise or legally weight wise; a 2.5 year old who arrived in a backless booster blankie in hand and all; a mom of a 14 month old who wasn’t going to continue to RF her child because there was no way she was buying 2 MORE seats and basically felt as if she was forced to choose between buying a good long term seat and the safety of her child; a mom who struggled to find convertible seats to hold her children and yet they had to fit in the car she owned, a small 2 door convertible (sometimes you just do what you have to do); and finally a little girl who arrived in an infant (RF only) seat that was strapped in via seat belt but forward facing. Eeeeekkkk!!! Each of these families had a need and because of Graco and our combined passion to keep children safe, we were able to empower these parents with knowledge and amazing car seats!
Alas 5 children riding in new MyRide 65s, but ultimately because of those donations there was a rippling effect and now 10 children who are safer. Brothers and sisters are now buckled up secure too! I feel so honored to have been able to present these seats to the parents and see how amazingly grateful they were. I love being a technician and am so warmed when parents take the time to make things right. It makes me think of oh so many other children and parents that might be in the same predicament – parents that need to decide who is worthy of being “more safe” than another sibling or when to spend the money on what seat. I’m so thankful that Graco offers a wide variety of options in car seats – all of which keep our children buckled up secure. Again, thank you Graco for your awesome donations!
So I may be Irish and I may be lucky by default, but to me it’s more than that. I’m LUCKY to have the passion that burns inside me, I’m LUCKY to be a part of the Graco Nation family, and I’m LUCKY to be a child passenger safety technician!