40 | CITISCAPES | JUNE 2019 ix years have passed since the world of Ella and Dr. Wes Shelton changed forever. On June 14, 2013, the Sheltons found their 14-month-old son, Taylor, unresponsive in his crib. Other than having a mild ear infection, their son had been healthy and happy. His death was ruled as a Sudden Unexplained Death in a Child. And though the Sheltons searched for answers, his death remains unexplained. Ella says she continues to search, but part of her has accepted she may never know exactly what happened to her son. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow as a parent,” Ella says. “Losing a child is awful no matter what, but to not know why is just so much worse.” During their grieving process, Ella and Wes both struggled to find comfort and something that would ease their pain. The couple decided to establish the Taylor McKeen Shelton Foundation with the goals of increasing awareness of SUDC, funding crucial research in causes and prevention of SUDC, supporting the needs of families impacted by SUDC and giving back to communities and organizations across Arkansas. Ella points out that SUDC is the number five cause of death among toddlers. The main recipient of funds from the TMSF is the Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood Program, created to be a centralized resource for SUDC that provides information, support, advocacy and research. The SUDC Program is a part of the CJ Foundation for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Ella says the SUDC Program serves families that suffer through the unexpected and unexplained loss of a child. The program strives to provide answers but also provides a community for those parents struggling with SUDC. Ella has become a personal ambassador for SUDC, speaking about Taylor and working to help connect other grieving families to the SUDC program. “Grief is a lifelong journey. The pain changes, but it never goes away. My grief is different than it was when Taylor first died, but I don’t ever want to miss the opportunity to share his story.” The TMSF has also given to the Batesville community, Ella and Wes’ hometown. The foundation has supported the Cribs for Kids Program at the White River Health System in Batesville, which is combating SIDS by providing sleep safety information to new parents, as well as a safe sleep sack with their foundation logo on it and a crib to those parents who can’t afford one. Ella says Taylor’s foundation is currently in the early stages of partnering with the Arkansas Hospital Auxiliary Association, which has taken on the project of providing sleep sacks to hospitals throughout the state in an effort to reduce SIDS deaths. To help fund all its efforts, Taylor’s foundation will host the 6th annual Tee Off for Taylor Tournament and Reception on Saturday, June 29, at Shadow Valley Country Club in Rogers. NONPROFIT SPOTLIGHT | BY KARA ISHAM | PHOTOS COURTESY OF TAYLOR MCKEEN SHELTON FOUNDATION TMSF Signature Event Set to Tee Off June 29 S Ella with son Thayer, age 4, and the 2018 Tee Off for Taylor event volunteers. Ella and Wes Shelton with their son Taylor, whose death in 2013 was attributed to Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood. Photo by Nicole Pawlaczyk.