TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) - Sometimes it takes horrible tragedies for good things to happen. On October 3rd, 2012 in Ft. Myers, Florida, 11-year-old Jesse Watlington was struck by lightning while at football practice. Four days later, he passed away, but the Watlington family has made sure that Jesse's memory lives on.
"He was such a sweet little kid," remembered Dad Chuck. "Not because he's my son, but he was a handsome little boy."
A handsome little boy taken too soon in a needless tragedy. Jesse was struck by lightning at practice because his coaches didn't have the proper technology to detect lightning. After Jesse was struck, the head coach and the assistant coach didn't know CPR.
"They just sat and watched my son die," said Chuck. Now, the Watlington's have made it their mission that no family ever has to go through what they did three years ago.
"I'm paying for the system," said Chuck on Wednesday morning while standing on the track at North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee. "If it's a one siren like this school is, it's a ten thousand dollar system."
That system is the Weatherbug Lightning Alerting System, used by NFL and MLB stadiums across the country, and the latest donation? To North Florida Christian School in Tallahassee.
"Soon as he called and told us what he was doing, we were like, yeah, we want to talk to you about it," said Athletic Director Mike Posey. "The story is really compelling, but what he's doing to help protect kids is great."
"All you got to do is one lightning strike within ten miles of this campus," said Chuck. "That siren is going to go off. You will hear it 700 yards in every direction of the siren."
It's a way to protect kids, and it's a way for the Watlington's to make sure what they experienced never happens again.
"For this Foundation, we're not taking a salary," said Chuck. "My son gave his life to this foundation. The least I can do is to give mine for this and not take a dime. All expenses for the foundation are being paid out of our own pocket, and we're going to keep it that way."
Fifty Christian schools across the state of Florida will receive the system free of charge, as it is funded by the Foundation. To outfit the rest, and eventually move to the public school system, the Watlington's will need donations. To find out how you can help, please visit the Jesse Watlington Memorial Foundation's website here.