In this interview, I talk with my friend Laurie Martin, who faced an unspeakable tragedy no mother wants to face: the loss of her son. Zach Martin made local and national headlines when he collapsed after a high school football practice, passing away days later from the exertional heat stroke he had suffered. Laurie has taken up a mission in honor of her son’s attitude toward helping and protecting his community. The Zach Martin Foundation ultimately received the attention of Florida’s governor and legislators, putting new laws on the books to better protect the health of student athletes.

Phil Rice  00:10

So I am Phil Rice, and I’m here talking with Laurie Martin, who is not a stranger to me at all, though we haven’t gotten to speak in quite some time. But we both, we knew each other as children in the Midwest, Central Illinois. And then we kind of grew up part of our teen years around each other in South Florida. And our dads worked in the same industry for the same company. And we both worked at the same Chick-fil-A, where I saw Laurie take on a 350 pound bully in an unforgettable night. And I have to say, at that time, when I was working at Chick-fil-A with you, you were probably my closest, real confidant because you… People at school, you know, that’s like one body of knowledge or, you know, way of interacting. And then people at church, it’s another, you know, and you don’t try to separate those and lead a dual life. But when you’re growing up, as a teen in church, that’s kind of the way it plays out. And for some, for whatever reason, you felt like you were actually in the real world. But also you were there and had grown up in the church experience as well. So you we had a lot in common in that regard, I think. We both loved Van Halen, so how can you go wrong there? And you actually introduced to me, you told me back then, and I did not believe you. You told me, “Phil, you need to listen to AC DC. You will love AC DC.” And I tried and I didn’t. And it wasn’t until college years that somehow I just got exposed to it and rediscovered it. And yeah, now it’s like, a regular part of my playlist. So you were right all along on that. And then now we live in the same part of of Florida again.

Phil Rice  02:19

So I guess my first question for you, Laurie is, when are you going to stop following me around? It’s, you know, it’s embarrassing. It’s enough, you know? But it is funny, the serendipity of how many different points, periods of our lives have just happened to interact through no direct planning of our own. That’s just the way that that has happened. And that’s probably the only basis on which I feel comfortable approaching you about what we’re going to talk about today, which is, which is not a fun topic and is hard. And, you know, people that I’m very close to I, as I mentioned a little earlier, before we were recording that I have a difficult time, I’m one of those people that I really don’t know what to say, even when I should, you know? I’m at an age now where, doggone it, I should know what to say. I should at least have a good stack of cliches that I can just pull out. And I don’t even have that. So I’m going to do my best here to kind of stay out of your way.

Phil Rice  03:24

But I would really love to, not just for the sake of exploiting the story at all, but because I think that there are… twofold: there are going to be parents who either have experienced an unthinkable loss or who may in the future. And I think that that some insight into how you don’t let that completely just destroy you and destroy your whole… wipe you out of existence. I think that’s that’s helpful. And secondly is, a lot of the work that you’ve done with the foundation, which we’ll get into. There’s a whole other level of education for parents for the issue that was central here that I think is… it’s important to continue to get the word out on that because, you know, for all the reasons that you’ve got into. We’ll get into the details on that, but I honestly don’t know where to, to ask you to start but you said you’ve talked about this a few times. So maybe you’ve got an idea there. But Laurie, yeah. Tell us, tell us about it.

Laurie Martin  04:46

I think the way to start with someone who doesn’t know anything about me or my family, you know, my husband Ed and I have four kids together. Two were mine biologically, two were his biologically but, you know, we got married 12 years ago, we blended our family. And we made, we discussed, you know how to raise kids. And, you know, we just came to the conclusion that we were going to raise them as individuals. So we were going, we weren’t going to treat them all exactly the same. And the reason for that is, you know, it all really evens out in the end. And so you know, what’s appropriate for one is not necessarily appropriate for another at the same age or the same stage in life. And so that was the approach that we took.

Laurie Martin  05:51

And with Zach, he and Connor were only six months apart in age. So they were in the same grade. But they were very, very different personalities. And Zach wanted to play football his entire life, he just knew that he was going to love that game. And so in elementary school, they started playing flag football. And all three boys loved playing flag football. They all, you know, do really well in school. They’re very balanced socially. But man, as soon as the summer after eighth grade came, Zach was looking for a high school with a good football team. That’s just what he wanted more than anything. And so he chose Riverdale. He thought that that would be just the perfect school, the perfect atmosphere. He felt really comfortable there. And so you know, summer practices start at six or seven o’clock in the morning and I thought he might struggle with that and never did, never had an issue with getting up early in the summer. He just, even on hard days, he worked really hard at it. He just loved the game.

Laurie Martin  07:32

So got through the freshman year, got to sophomore year. Played football again, if it was possible, he loved it even more the second year. And so the summer between his sophomore and junior year, you know, that’s an important time. He was, you know, looking at possibly being on varsity. And he really wanted that spot. He was by this point, he was 16, he was six foot four, he weighed 320 pounds. He was offensive lineman. He had the personality, you know, the protective instincts, he had, you know, everything you can think of for the perfect offensive lineman, Zack had all of it. And, you know, it was something that he just, it was his path. He he wanted to do that he wanted to after high school, he wanted to go to FGCU, to be a police officer, again, protecting his community. You know, that was just, this is the personality of, you know, this boy, who was starting to become a man. And you know, we could see so many possibilities and we could see his path unfolding. And it was just really exciting to see. And so he was working really, really hard. They were getting ready to be off for the, you know, they were usually off the week of July 4th. So this was June 29th. They did workouts Monday through Thursday. They had Fridays off. So this was that Thursday. He was looking forward to having that week off. Then we were planning this huge family cruise, you know, after the July 4th weekend. So he was excited about that. He loved going on cruises. We had a bunch of friends that were going with us. And you know, it was just exciting. And so that morning, we left, I dropped him off at practice I was, you know, like, you know, see you afterwards, work hard, I love you. And, you know, took him like three steps to get from my car to the locker room door.

Laurie Martin  10:17

I was working from home that summer, so came back home. And I went back about 10 to pick him up. And I could see they were still just finishing up practice, you know, I could just see all of them out on the field. So I parked in the parking lot and the bleachers are there I can’t, I can’t see the field anymore. So I was waiting. And then one of the boys was, you know, knocking on the window of the car and I rolled it down. I thought maybe he needed a ride home or whatever. And he was like, Hey, Zach is down, we can’t get him up. And I was like, Oh, well, okay. Yeah, I’m thinking, Okay, he’s probably cramping or, you know, whatever. So I grabbed my phone, got out of the car, walked over, you know, through the parking lot.

Laurie Martin  11:08

And as I came around the bleachers, you know, that’s just when everything stopped. And things started moving sort of in slow motion. Because my brain was racing, I had no idea what I was looking at. But there was a coach sitting behind him, Zach was leaning back against his chest, they were on the ground, sitting, two boys were holding his arms to sort of keep him in an upright position. His eyes were closed, and he was just making this moaning sound over and over, and I was completely lost, had no idea what was happening. You know, and at that point, the coach turned around and said, now’s not the time to panic. I’ve seen this before. I know what’s going on, he got a little overheated, we just need to cool him off, and he’s going to be fine.

“My brain was racing, I had no idea what I was looking at.”

Laurie Martin

Laurie Martin  12:06

I remember just standing there looking at him, because what the coach was saying, just there were alarms going off. And again, I didn’t know what was going on. But, they were – they being some of the boys from the team – had water bottles, they were pouring water in his mouth. I was like, you know, maybe we should dump water over his head. You know, I like I just wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t know. And, you know, it was during this time that the ambulance was called. And they came. And they said, you know, we need to take them to the hospital. And so I rode with them. And we got to the hospital. And I remember looking at the one of the paramedics and I said, What is happening? And she said, Well, we think he might be having heat stroke. And I you know, I just felt like, all the air went out of my body at that point. Because in my mind, the only thing I had ever heard of for heat stroke was, you know, hot weather conditions, elderly people or children or whatever, who can’t really cool down. The other thing that came to my mind was kids who die of heat stroke in cars. So those are the only two things that I had ever heard of, when someone says heat stroke and so, we, you know, we got in there. They admitted him, and then we spent the next six days at Golisano Children’s Hospital. You know, there were a lot of ups and downs. It was excruciating.

Laurie Martin  14:22

I stayed at the hospital the entire time I refused to leave. And I was sleeping out in their lobby. They were so patient with me. But I just I was like, I mean I can’t leave. And so what we started learning was that you know, exertional heat stroke is when the body’s internal temperature reaches 104 degrees. What happens at that point is your body loses the ability to regulate the internal temperature, and it just skyrocketed. So when he arrived in the ER, his internal temperature was 107 degrees. So what that did to him was it damaged his liver, it damaged his kidneys, they were worried about heart damage. And of course, brain damage is the other thing that they were really, really worried about. The liver usually takes the brunt of whatever happens. So usually someone who has exertional heat stroke ends up having a liver transplant. And they were worried about that, because we didn’t have a pediatric surgeon for a liver transplant here in Southwest Florida. So they transferred him to Miami. And they had a helicopter come in, this was six days after the accident. They transported him by helicopter, they were afraid he wouldn’t survive a drive over to Miami. So still very fragile at that point. And so we got him there. And ironically, his liver while it was damaged, had started to heal. They, you know, the markers and stuff that they were looking at, were actually improving a little bit. But what ended up happening was his kidneys failed. And that’s ultimately what ended up taking his life. Which is, you know, the whole thing is tragic and sad. But you know, it was even more of a knife twist, because he had woken up. He had squeezed our hands. He had you know, he was on an incubator this entire time so he couldn’t talk. But yeah, you know, he was there. He was fighting. And he fought so hard for that to end up being, you know, what ultimately took his life was just so tragic.

Laurie Martin  17:25

So, you know, it’s thinking back to those days, he fought as hard as he possibly could. And when his body gave out, there was just nothing anyone could do. It was hard to come to grips with that, you know, with today’s medical tools and technology that, you know, everyone… there was nothing anyone could do. And so I think it was, you know, on the drive back from Miami, that I looked at my husband and said, we’re not taking a loss on him, we’re not, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how we’re going to do it. But there was so much potential, there was so many things that he was destined to do that were taken away. That I just was, you know, and my husband said, I agree, absolutely agree that, you know, neither one of us knew what to do at that point. But we knew something had to continue. And when I started the Zach Martin Foundation, it was because in those weeks after we lost him, my natural instinct is to do research and to learn as much as I possibly can about something, you know, if I didn’t know anything about it, what was it? How did this happen? He was healthy. You know, he had perfect attendance almost every year at school because he just never got sick. So, how did this happen? You know, within within three hours?

“I looked at my husband and said, ‘We’re not taking a loss on him, we’re not…'”

Laurie Martin

Laurie Martin  19:26

And so I learned that exertional heatstroke can happen, because your body’s mechanism for cooling itself is the evaporation of sweat. That’s how your body cools itself. On extremely humid days, that evaporation is not happening. So the cooling mechanism is not working. And the one thing that has worked 100% of the time when it’s used is immersion in a cold water immersion tub. So water, ice, and a tub. 10 minutes, 15 minutes, there has been 100% survival of exertional heat stroke. And this is something that has worked with people who have had internal temperatures as high as 109, 110 degrees, they should be, you know, they should not have survived the day. And they are fine. Not just fine, like, healthy, active human beings. So, I think that was just a fresh pain, learning that it could have been so easy to save him. And, you know, there’s kids, he’s not the only kid. And I say, kid, because, you know, I see any high school student as still, they’re minors. They’re under the care and guardianship of their parents and of, you know, their school teachers. And, you know, there’s a reason why they’re not living out on their own. They’re still needing that care and guidance, and that needed to be translated to our athletic fields. That, you know, this is something that is so simple to do. It needs to be there, just in case, even if you never use it. If you never use it, that’s wonderful. But it needs to be there because the one time you need it, you don’t have, you’ve got probably 10 minutes to get them into a cold tub. And you’ve got time, but you don’t have time to drag out a tub, fill it up, get ice, you know, there’s, you have to be prepared.

Laurie Martin  21:57

And I think, with the foundation that we started, in his honor, that was our beginning point of… Okay, there are schools who don’t even have cold water immersion tubs on site. For $150, let’s just make sure they have them. And, you know, that’s where we started and delivering those tubs starts the conversation of, you know, this needs to be on the field every time. This needs to be the same thing as having your first aid kit with you. It needs to be the same as having a defibrillator with you. You know, these are, these are life saving devices that should be available and ready to use every single time these athletes take the field. And you know, so that’s really where we started with the foundation. We had a lot of help from the Korey Stringer Institute and Dr. Doug Casa. And, you know, Korey Stringer was the NFL football player who died of exertional heat stroke. And they started the Korey Stringer Institute 10 years ago. So we had a lot of help a lot of education from them. And, you know, I really pushed for the Florida High School Athletic Association to implement rules for the athletic groups that are part, you know, are members. And I really struggled with that for a few years, because they just really didn’t want to move to the point of mandating it. And in the meantime, another boy died in Tampa of exertional heat stroke in 2019. And you know, unfortunately, that, I think was sort of a galvanizing push for, you know, knowledge is not enough. Suggesting or strongly suggesting is not enough. Something else has to be done.

Laurie Martin  24:37

And so that’s when I had been talking to a senator. She and I disagreed about how many instances of exertional heat exhaustion and heat stroke were happening in Florida schools. You know, a lot of people think that it’s rare for that to happen. And I was like, you know, I just don’t really think it falls into the rare category. I think being in Florida, I think it probably happens more than we realize. So what she agreed to do was to get a poll done. And so they did. It was a government group that did the poll. And 50% of the Florida high schools responded, which is unheard of. Right?

Phil Rice  25:33

That’s a great rate, yeah.

Laurie Martin  25:34

Unbelievable. But the shocking thing, when it came back, when I looked at it is there were there were 456 instances of exertional heat illness that required someone to attend to that student. And that was only during the school year, for 2016 to 2017. That did not include the summer. So, and there were, you know, there were 20 some or 18, I think, close to 20 instances of heat stroke, where you know, that it was beyond heat exhaustion. So those are scary numbers when you see those, you know, and even if you know how surveys work, you know, sometimes things are double reported or over and I said it doesn’t matter. You know, this was only 50% of the school’s reporting. I think that that’s probably a pretty accurate number. You know, when you get into percentages, I said, That’s not rare. It’s not.

Laurie Martin  26:51

And so that became the focal piece that the Florida House of Representatives and the Florida Senate keyed in on to start this bill for athlete safety. And, you know, I think that they, I think that their heart dropped just like I did when I read that report, and you know, even schools that still did not have athletic trainers, still did not have cold water tubs, still did not have defibrillators. You know, it’s scary. When you think that, you know, as a parent, when you give your child to someone else, you expect the standards to be minimum, lifesaving?

Phil Rice  27:50

Yeah, yeah, right.

Laurie Martin  27:52

I think most parents, you know, give their kids over expecting much more than that. And Florida was failing miserably on those fronts. So that’s what started that athlete safety bill. And I just made it my job to go to every committee meeting in Tallahassee, and testify at every single committee meeting, and share the worst day of my life with complete strangers. Because I don’t want someone else to go through what I went through. They don’t have to, you know, it’s coaches who are educated on what to look for, you know, what to do, and being prepared. Yeah. So last year, in 2020, Governor DeSantis, signed the Zachary Martin Act into law. And, you know, it became July 1st, it became law, they have to have cooling zones, they have to have some way to do a cold water immersion tub. And then July of this year begins the portion of the law that staff, school staff who will be responsible for kids and athletic settings, you know, athletes have to be trained in CPR and how to use a defibrillator. And you know, I think it’s surprising to people that that wasn’t required before. I don’t think people knew that. That their teachers don’t know how to use that stuff. They don’t have to know CPR. They don’t have to have first aid training. So you know, those things are important.

“I don’t want someone else to go through what I went through. They don’t have to.”

Laurie Martin

Laurie Martin  28:55

So, you know, that’s what got us to this point. That’s sort of the overarcing view of getting from point A to where we’re at on our path right now, you know, moving forward. We’re certainly not done, yet, we’ve got a lot of education left to do, we’ve got a lot of protocols and procedures, that, you know, we still need to, I don’t know, I feel like we need to help. You know, I think people, when when I talk with them, then they all of a sudden are like, Oh, we need to do that, you know, my school needs to do that. And, you know, it’s just a matter of asking the question, you know, ask your coach, do you have a cold tub? Is it out? is it available? And, you know, if your coach is overwhelmed, help them out. You know, I mean, as a parent, you know, if your coach says, I’m here, by myself, I’m trying to get ready for 100 plus kids to come out every day, I have a tub, but it’s, you know, I don’t have anybody to pull it out and get it ready… be that person for your coach. You know, tell him, I’ll buy the ice every day, you know, if that’s an issue. This is something that parents can form a group and trade off duties. Buy a defibrillator for your coach to have out on the field, if he doesn’t have access to the front office, where it’s kept. Buy a defibrillator to keep out on that field. You know, it’s something that when everyone takes responsibility for it, it’s really not a hardship. It’s something that we’re doing for our kids, and we need to make sure that it’s taken care of.

Laurie Martin  32:21

So, the next thing that we’re doing is, I’m helping form a national foundation, and it’s called Below 104. And we’re just now applying for charity status and forming that group. But the point of it is to bring together all of the foundations and the parents like Zach Martin Foundation, under one umbrella, so that we have a stronger voice nationally. You know, I’ve already sent things to the Department of Education, through a lobbyist who’s helping us in Washington, requesting basically the same kind of poll that we did for Florida, but on a national level. Because again, I think there’s this misnomer or there’s this myth that it’s rare. And not just exertional heat stroke, but that athlete, you know, secondary school athlete death, sudden death, is rare. And I think it happens more than what we understand or realize, you know. In Florida, exertional heat stroke was not something that was ever mandatory to be reported. So, you know, if you get a kid who’s sick during workouts, or is throwing up during workouts, it was kind of laughed off. And if he never came back to practice again, well no big deal, nobody followed up with it to see if, okay, maybe he had heat exhaustion, maybe, you know, there should have been medical intervention to get them back to health, then, you know, those things just start just weren’t happening for years and years and years. But that’s sort of like where we’re going with it. You know, that it’s a health issue. And we’ve largely ignored the secondary school setting the high school setting when it comes to medical support, and, you know, health support, and especially in the southeast, where sports are year round. You know, there’s no, Oh, it’s football season in the Fall. There’s football now, there’s football again in the spring, there’s football… it’s not called football practice over the summer, but you know, they’re working out. They’re conditioning over the summer, there’s there’s no stopping. And that goes for baseball that goes for band. I, you’re very familiar with band practices.

Phil Rice  35:11

Yeah.

Laurie Martin  35:13

During the summer.

Phil Rice  35:14

Absolutely, in Florida, with those big heavy uniforms. Yeah, yeah.

Laurie Martin  35:20

Yeah, we’ve brought band into, you know, what we’re talking about as well. I mean, you know, they always, they don’t always get the luxury of working out or working out or practicing on the field, you know, a lot of times they’re out in the blacktop parking lot. even hotter. You know, for them, and, you know, J ROTC that, you know, there’s lots of lots of things other than football, that we see where precautions and planning need to take place. And, you know, another piece of that, just for education purposes of why we see this more now than we ever did before, is when you think about when you and I were young. You know, we came home from school, and we went right back outside. All summer, we were outside all day. Yeah. You know, and really, I don’t think my parents ran the air conditioning that much. You know, it was expensive. So, you know, it just wasn’t a big part of life, then you were outside you, you did things. So there was a level of being acclimated to your surroundings to the heat, the humidity that we don’t have nowadays, because yeah, people work in the AC, they go to school in AC, they come home, they’re in AC. You know, kids don’t really go outside and play like they used to they, you know, they stay inside and especially with this past year, with everyone being home more than any…

Phil Rice  37:05

Oh yeah, just magnified. Right.

Laurie Martin  37:06

Yeah. So there’s, there’s a lot of other contributing factors that are making exertional heat stroke even more dangerous now than it ever has been in the past.

Phil Rice  37:24

Sure, sure. You know, I think about, you mentioned that conversation that you guys had, on that day coming back from Miami about the not taking a loss. There’s a lot of different ways that you know, people deal with, with that loss. Many of them not very, you know, not constructive, not helpful, you know. I think that probably my wife, her inclination, her natural inclination would be to look for somebody at the school to blame, you know, to be angry at and to direct her rage at that. Me? I’d really struggle with not being really pissed off at God. Was that decision that you guys made in that drive to… it kind of was setting a course, you know, for? This is what we’re going to do with that. We’re going to do this with it, even not knowing exactly what, but it wasn’t those things. It wasn’t the darkness, you know. Is that what helped you avoid those pitfalls? Because, yeah, most people would just be so mad.

Laurie Martin  38:48

Yeah, oh, there was that too.

Phil Rice  38:50

Yeah. It’s natural. I think it’s, it’s like one of the stages of grief. It’s a it’s a normal thing for sure. But you didn’t let it consume you. And I think that’s, that’s noteworthy.

Laurie Martin  39:02

It’s, yeah, I would say it’s it’s been a tug of war between the two. And it still is. You know, grief, obviously, is not linear. And I go back to the guilt and the anger stages regularly. Yeah. You know, there’s… when all of this happened, you know, obviously, you’re in shock. There’s, you know, there were mental issues. I was seeing a psychiatrist and a psychologist for years afterwards. For years. I was on medication, it’s no joke, mentally, emotionally, physically. You know, there’s physical pain that comes with it, this type of loss, and I didn’t want to get… I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, I, you know, I would wake up and immediately just, it all comes rushing back again. And so the mental health aspect of it was key to my survival. Yeah. Especially during those first, at least the first year. The… having a really good psychologist to help me walk through that to give me tools to cope.

“Grief, obviously, is not linear. And I go back to the guilt and the anger stages regularly.”

Laurie Martin

Phil Rice  40:45

Yeah, yeah, those are important.

Laurie Martin  40:48

Incredibly important. And, you know, medication, unfortunately, you need it, or I needed it to get through, you know, what I had to get through, and it changed, you know, there, there were, we changed what it was, we changed, you know, throughout the whole process. And that was, that was a big part of it. And, you know, as far as blaming someone, I mean, you know, full disclosure, we sued the school, we sued the coach. And not just for what happened leading up to it, but for the response afterwards. You know, those things needed to change as well. And, you know, they have. There have been a few instances where kids started getting sick. And to their credit, these coaches have put them immediately, right in the tub. There was a coach that he was on another field and didn’t have a tub out there. And thought back very quickly to the demonstration we did in the video that we have, where you use a tarp, he had a couple boys hold a tarp, they got the player in it dumped ice and water on it. I mean, it was immediate, they call the ambulance immediately. You know, and the paramedics were like you did everything, right, this kid’s fine. He’s fine. And, you know, so those are things that, you know, maybe they wouldn’t have known what to do, maybe they they wouldn’t have had that, you know, that exposure to say, oh, okay, I don’t have a tub. Here’s what I need to do instead. And, you know, that’s, that’s the whole point. That’s Zach’s legacy, right there. That’s who he was. You know, and even, even if he had made it, I think we would still be doing this. I think that that would have just become part of who he was. You know, still protecting, still taking care of other people. That’s, that’s who he was. That’s what he wanted to do. And, you know, so that’s just, that’s my, that’s always been my goal. And that’s what sort of pulls me back from letting that anger and you know, call it what it is, I mean, there’s hatred there for a long time. And, and that’s what pulls me back from letting it consume me. Because if I had not gotten out of bed every day, got dressed, come downstairs, and did one thing to try to move the needle a little bit, none of this would would be happening today. And maybe we would have lost another high school or two since then. And, you know, I would rather… this is something that you you can’t quantify what doesn’t happen. And, and so, I’m okay with that. Yeah, I’ll be happy if it never happens again. It shouldn’t happen again. We know better we know what to do should not happen. Right? So I’d be happy if there was no need for it anymore. The everybody just knows and you know, I said in the beginning, I want it to be like the Heimlich maneuver or stop, drop and roll. You know those are things everybody knows, everybody knows, and you don’t really remember exactly when you learned it, but you just know it. That’s what I want. You know, treating exertional heat stroke to be like this. You know, somebody overheated, somebody vomits, immediately everybody knows they have to stop. They have to get cooled down, you have to get, you know, put them in ice water, those those things, I just want to be common knowledge.

“I want [treating exertional heat stroke] to be like the Heimlich maneuver, or stop, drop and roll.”

Laurie Martin

Laurie Martin  45:08

And, you know, from on the spiritual aspect. I think I shocked people sometimes because, you know, as you know, I’ve been in a grew up in the church and I don’t mean that facetiously. I mean, like, I was there every time the doors were open. I literally lived there. And, you know, so I’d have people talk to me and, you know, say something about God, and I’m not speaking to him right now. I’m not. And I would take them back a little bit, and I think it scared some people, you know, I’m like, No, I’m angry. And what I always said to them was, He can handle it.

Phil Rice  45:58

Yes, thank you.

Laurie Martin  45:59

He’s bigger than that. Like, right. I mean, when your child gets mad and angry at you, and you know, that they’re hurting, and you know, that they’re upset, you don’t just write them off and kick them out of your house. You still love them You know, so I would tell people that all the time, because it just surprised me that, you know, that they didn’t know that. He’s bigger than this. I think He can handle me being angry with Him. Or not speaking with, you know, I mean, it’s not I certainly never, you know, I never, like, cursed Him out or anything. I just, I was angry with Him. I don’t understand it, I still again, I circle back into that regularly. Because I’m human. I don’t understand why it happened. I don’t subscribe to the  “everything happens for a reason” mentality. I think it was an accident. I don’t think that Zach dying at 16 of exertional heat stroke was “God’s plan for his life.” I don’t believe that. I think that the world we live in, sucks, and terrible things happen. And this is the world we live in. Terrible things happen. I’m not okay with it. I’m not. And, you know, I have my own personal hell that I deal with, live with on a daily basis. And sometimes I can sit with it next to me and go about my day and function as a normal human being. And some days, I can’t. Some days, I’m a mess. And, you know, I just try to be very honest and genuine about, you know, what I’m feeling or what I’m living in that moment. I don’t know how to be any other way. This is how I’ve been my entire life. I just sort of my emotions are like, all right there. And it is what it is. But that’s Laurie. You’re never going to guess about what she’s thinking or feeling. But, you know, there’s no there’s no easy way through any kind of grief. And, you know, this grief, you just get stronger. You carry it a little more gracefully, as time goes by. But it’s not something that you ever get used to.

“I think [God] can handle me being angry with Him.”

Laurie Martin

Phil Rice  49:15

Yeah. Laurie, if people you mentioned that, generally speaking if people want to help this cause, that getting involved locally, like, especially if they’ve got a young person involved in sports at school to get just start there. But if they wanted to, are there opportunities for people to to get involved at at the Zach Martin Foundation level? I mean, obviously, I’m sure there’s some kind of mechanism for donation, but as far as I guess what you what you’d lump under the term “activism” is there is there a way for people to to get involved? And how does that work?

Laurie Martin  50:02

Yeah. Yes, obviously donations help, you know, if their school needs a tub, or there’s an opportunity for education, you know, where I can talk with a coach. And this is not just for schools, I mean, it’s for, you know, private athletic clubs. That, you know, from kindergarten up, you know, if you’re, if your child is out there working out, and you know, and they want to learn, I am very happy to come talk to them. They can email me, you know, I will do podcasts, I’ll do it virtually, I can do it in person. I’ll do either way, it doesn’t matter. This next Friday, May 28, we’re having the inaugural Zach Martin Memorial Game. And it’s a spring game at Dunbar High School. And so we’ll be there. You know, we’ll have our safety video running, we have that on our website, it’s free to use. So it’s like 10 minutes, so anyone can download it, use it. For you know, they want to just watch it, or if they want somebody else to watch it, it’s totally fine. We, we have it on there for that purpose. And, you know, again, I’m happy to talk to people, I’m not shy about talking in large groups. So it’s, it’s not something that that bothers me all, I’ll talk to anybody. And, but you know, it would be great if you know, we could get a good crowd to come out and support the school. We really appreciate Dunbar High School, you know, volunteering for us to have this first event there. And, you know, it’s something that we just want to be fun, be learning experience for everybody, it’s gonna be a good game. You know, spring games are a little less intense. Everyone has more fun with it with the football games. But we just, you know, we’d really love for everybody to be there, come out and support us. And then, you know, we always put fundraisers that we have, you know, on our website on our Facebook page, so you can follow us on Facebook.

Phil Rice  52:50

Right. And we do notes, detailed notes. When we publish these podcasts, I’ll make sure that links to all that all that stuff or the foundation and for other stuff that we may have mentioned. I’ll make sure those are all in the notes down there. Yeah, so people can find it easily. If not, if you’re not into reading, then the website is ZachMartinFoundation.com, that’s where you can find the links to all that stuff in the video that Laurie talked about, as well. Yeah, I think that’s, that’s probably the best place I can think of to stop. It was a pleasure to talk to you. Like we said, before we started recording we need to not be we’re going to figure out how to not be strangers living in the same town again. So this was as good a good way as any, I guess, to get acquainted again.

Laurie Martin  53:53

Yeah.

Phil Rice  53:54

So thank you so much for this, I don’t know if I could do what you just did. I don’t think I would handle things as well as you did. And, you know, just I really appreciate what you’ve what you’ve done, you know, to deal with this, you know, it’s just, I can’t even imagine I mean, that’s, I guess that’s, that’s what we’re equipped as humans to do is empathize by imagining… I can’t, like I can’t even conceive of what it’s like to be in that but now I feel like you know, maybe I understand a little better. And maybe that’ll, you know, God forbid if I ever have to… I sometimes feel like all of us end up having some, you know, Noah’s Flood ends up coming for all of us at some point you know, so I feel like that it’s smart for anyone to, who hasn’t been through theirs, to build their boat the best they can, you know. And you’ve helped me with that and I hope that for others listening, that is the same. So thank you again.

Laurie Martin  55:13

You’re very welcome. Anytime.

Links from the Interview

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