‘Garrett’s Legacy’ becomes law

Behind Garrett’s memorial in Napanee, children once again play soccer on the field where the young man lost his life seven years ago due to an un-anchored mobile soccer net. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

“Done deal! Garrett’s Legacy Act – Bill 99… officially passed into law!” 

This simple but heartfelt message to all those who follow Dave and Gwen Mills on Facebook comes at the end of seven years, which started with the tragic death of their son, Garrett Mills. Bill 99’s third and final reading passed on Tuesday, May 30, 2024, becoming a new law in Ontario.

Garrett’s Legacy Act establishes requirements for organizations and entities regarding the safe use of movable soccer goals that they make available for use by the public. It also provides for inspections and requires the Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport (or any cabinet member to whom administration of this act is assigned) to establish a mechanism to report complaints of alleged non-compliance with the act.

Last year, Dave Mills shared that he and his 15-year old son Garrett were hanging out in the hot tub on a fine May day in 2017.

“He asked me out of the blue… ‘Dad, what’s a legacy?’ I explained to him that it’s kind of a footprint one leaves behind, usually a positive reputation that you’re known for, or whatever. He thought about that for a second, and then he said, ‘Yeah… when I go, I want to leave a legacy,” Mills recalled.

Four days later, Garrett died in what should have been an easily preventable accident. He did a pull-up on a soccer net in a park he’d been playing at since he was little; the net wasn’t anchored, and it toppled. The heavy steel killed Garrett as his best friends watched helplessly.

In the shock and grief the day following, Dave Mills had a moment of panic: “I remember wondering, how is he going to leave his legacy now?”

“So that, hand in hand with the thought that God forbid this should ever happen to anybody else… that’s what kick-started the whole thing,” Mills explained.

There have been four kids in Canada, including Garrett, who have been killed by a falling soccer net, and 44 kids at last count in the [United States], Mills learned. “It’s the type of accident that doesn’t have to happen… and on top of that, hundreds more young people and adults have been injured or maimed by soccer nets falling over up to this point.”

Unveiled in 2019, a beautiful memorial to Garrett Mills stands in Napanee’s King Street Park. Photo by Michelle Dorey Forestell/Kingstonist.

Garrett’s Legacy will help ensure this avoidable tragedy won’t take any other kids.

“As frustrating as it was to have this drawn out as much as it was, it did give me the opportunity every time this has come before Provincial Parliament to be invited to speak about it by the media. So it’s given me a little platform to get that awareness out there,” Mills said today on the drive home from Toronto to Napanee.

“You know, we had to pursue this. But, yeah, we’re not only very happy, but we’re incredibly grateful for people like [Member of Provincial Parliament for Hastings–Lennox and Addington] Ric Bresee and the people who did the legwork to make this happen.”

Mills said, “I think just as important as having this bill in place is that people be aware of the risk of mobile soccer nets that aren’t anchored. Because if we had known of that risk, you know, the difference between life and death for our son would have been as simple as me saying, ‘Garrett, don’t play on the soccer nets at the park.’ He was the kind of kid who listened to his old man and would have adhered to that advice, but we had no idea. We had no clue. So I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to get the awareness out there. And because the process was so drawn out, I’ve had multiple chances to do that.”

“I am incredibly proud of our team today as the Garrett’s Legacy Act passes through the House,” said Bresee, as he thanked the Mills family and his team. “I am grateful for the advocacy of Dave and Gwen Mills and the cooperation across the House to provide the regulatory authority to the Minister of Tourism, Sport and Culture to require safe management of mobile soccer nets so that no one else dies from these preventable accidents.”

A beautiful memorial to Garrett now stands in Napanee’s King Street Park. Not far away, children can be seen playing soccer on the same field where the young man lost his life. It is hoped that this new legislation will ensure safety for all those who play, and that one family’s tragic loss is not repeated.

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