Summerville mom plants tree, provides teaching tools in honor of drowned son
Last week, many teary-eyed parents waved goodbye to their little ones starting their first day of kindergarten, but Summerville mom Michelle Zeig teared up for another reason.
Her son, Brayden Zeig, accidentally drowned in their backyard pool in 2008 and would have been starting kindergarten at Flowertown Elementary School this year. Instead of mourning her son’s death, Zeig’s foundation, Because of BRAYDEN, decided to celebrate his life by planting a tree at the school in his honor.
“Since I do not get to share him with you all, I wanted to do something. I hope this is something the kids will enjoy,” Zeig said to teachers, staff and family members as she wiped away tears.
Zeig and her husband, Jake, were home that June day when Brayden drowned. He and his 3-year-old brother, Nathaniel, sneaked out the back door to play while she, three months pregnant at the time, was experiencing morning sickness.
She knew something was wrong when the house got eerily quiet and Nathaniel came inside alone. She asked Nathaniel where his brother was, and he pointed to the backyard. When she and her husband walked outside, they discovered Brayden in the above-ground pool, which was new and had been used only twice.
“I was so sick that day. I wasn’t high on my game, and kids are so fast. I don’t care who you are, it’s impossible to keep your eye on them every single second. It just happened so quietly,” she told The Post and Courier at the time.
Principal Donna Goodwin said she was very excited when Zeig came to her earlier this summer with the idea of the memorial. She said it was a community effort because one of the school’s parent volunteers runs a nursery and was able to provide the tree and donate his time to help plant it.
The tree is a Carolina sapphire, a type of cedar. Zeig said she had no trouble picking it out because it is hardy and grows quickly. She also wanted it to look like a Christmas tree so the students can interact with it. “We hope as this tree grows we can let the children decorate it,” Assistant Principal Rachael Mahaffey said.
Zeig said her foundation, which stands for Building Resources and Awareness of Youth Drownings through Encouragement and Networking, wants to focus more on educating small children. She also was proud to say that more than 500 people participated in the organization’s third annual Water Safety Day in May, which taught parents and their children proper water safety practices.
The foundation was able to provide each kindergarten teacher with two books about water safety for their classrooms, both of which were written by similar foundations also started by families who have lost children to accidental drownings. She said that in the future she would like to publish her own water-safety book to help make sure what happened to Brayden does not happen to other children.
To learn more about the Because of BRAYDEN Foundation go to becauseofbrayden.com.
Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560.