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The Cause: Children's Product Safety Advocate Lisa Olney

Lisa Olney of Orford pushes daughter Grace Davis, 8, and stepdaughter Meghan Olney, 10, at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. Olney has been an advocate for childrens product safety since her 13-month-old daughter, Ellie, died in a play yard accident. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Lisa Olney of Orford pushes daughter Grace Davis, 8, and stepdaughter Meghan Olney, 10, at Samuel Morey Elementary School in Fairlee. Olney has been an advocate for childrens product safety since her 13-month-old daughter, Ellie, died in a play yard accident. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »

The Woman: Lisa Olney, 36, of Orford.

The Cause: Educating parents and caregivers about how to identify and purchase safe children’s products.

The Means: Sharing her story and promoting awareness through the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Kids in Danger (KID) and Safe Kids of New Hampshire.

The Impetus: On Dec. 19, 2002, Olney’s 13-month-old daughter, Ellie, was killed after her head became trapped between a changing table attachment and the edge of her play yard (an updated version of a playpen).

I became involved in my cause when my daughter, Ellie, who was 13 months old, (died). The eerie part about it was that just a few weeks before I had started to go back to school, and I was taking a composition class, and the teacher handed out an example of an “A” paper. And I was reading through it, and it was all about this organization called Kids in Danger, and Danny, who died in a play yard. When Ellie died, it was the first thing that came to my mind. (I contacted) Kids in Danger and said, ‘Oh my God, this happened, what should I do?’ And they were incredible. They said, contact the Consumer Product Safety Commission; make the report. They held my hand through the whole mourning process, and as I went through the grief, I was able to get more involved with Kids in Danger.

The most important thing to us (those involved with Kids in Danger) is, how can we get this information out there, so no other child has to die. And unfortunately, children continue to die from unsafe children’s products. As children have died, I’ve been in contact with other mothers through Kids in Danger; we get in touch, because we really share a bond.

If I had my way, and I was a little more confident, I would get out of my car every time I saw a children’s product (at a garage sale or set out free) on the side of the road.

It’s a little disheartening ... . Because people don’t get it; until it happens to you, you’ll never think it would ever happen to you. Mothers of newborns always have this fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and Ellie was just past the age where you didn’t have to check on her every five minutes. Did I ever think that something that was purchased to keep her safe would kill her? No!

(When shopping for children’s products) people think, ‘This is the expensive brand, so I’ll trust them,’ but that is not the case. Every brand is on that recall list. You have to do your homework.

That’s why I like to meet at parenting classes to get out there, and say, while you are buying these items, do the research, look at the CPSC website (www.cpsc.gov) for the list of recalled items, look at product reviews, etc.

For parents who can’t afford buying items new, go right to the CPSC website or the Kids in Danger website (www.kidsindanger.org), which has a sheet of things you want to check.

Know beforehand the things you want to ask. Do you have all the instructions? If you don’t have the original one, you can download one sometimes. Are all the pieces there? Do your homework before you go.

At the very least, check the item when you buy it and bring it home. That’s the frustrating part, we can’t all buy brand new. But check it, check it, check it, that’s what I say.

If you want to save money, go with the most simple model. Don’t go with all the bells and whistles; they just create more safety hazards.

Photograph and interview by Sarah Priestap

Published in print on July 22, 2012.

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