Drowning victim's family gives back

By Ashley Mitchem, Morning traffic, news reporter, amitchem@wjxt.com
Published On: Aug 11 2014 02:29:01 PM EDT
Updated On: Aug 11 2014 02:44:45 PM EDT

Nassau County firefighters unload donated toys at Wolfson Children's Hopsital.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Patients at Wolfson Children's Hospital are playing with new toys this week because a Nassau County family who endured a tragic loss wanted to give back.

Rachel Pennewell and her husband, Patrick Pennewell, lost their 22-month-old son, Tyler, about 10 years ago after he wandered into a neighbor's above-ground pool.

Nassau County rescuers revived him and he spent a few days at Wolfson before he passed.

"They kept Tyler alive long enough for us to kiss him and to hold him and to touch him while he was warm," said Rachel Pennewell. "Wolfson let us bathe him, put lotion on him. We got to comb his hair. To be able to hug your child one last time and to kiss one last time is priceless."

Rachel Pennewell said everyone took such good care of him she decided to form a charity to help others at the hospital.

The family worked with the Nassau County Fire Department to collect toys, and Monday a fire truck dropped off hundreds of toys for the kids in honor of Tyler.

"Children are always the hardest calls," said Curtis Bollinger of Nassau County Fire-Rescue. "We carry a lot of the calls, with us, but anytime it's a child, it's always a huge impact."

Rachel Pennewell wants to not only help the children at Wolfson, but also to have this opportunity to reach out to other parents.

She urges every parent to be aware of the potential dangers around the home, including a neighbor's yard.

She said it's taken years of healing to get to the point where they can give back and feel at peace.

"I was told I wasn't going to be able to have kids at a young age, so Tyler was a surprise," Rachel Pennewell said. "I try to focus more on being thankful for his life than (on) not having his life."

The Pennewells are now blessed with two daughters, who didn't know their brother, but know, the importance of remembering his life.

The family collects toys every May, Tyler's birth month, and donate to Wolfson. This is their second year and they plan to make it an annual event.

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