Update: This story has been updated to include photos and details from Wednesday’s unveiling of Lizzy Hammond’s portrait that will be included in a Rose Bowl parade float in Passendena on Jan. 1, 2022.
It has been two years since Danny’s big sister, Lizzy, was killed. The reminders are of what the Hammond family lost happen daily.
Wendy tensed up just seeing the bounce house at the same annual Halloween party Lizzy used to love.
“Mom, no one is going to die. It’s inside,” Danny, 6, told Wendy Hammond when they walked into the Nevada National Air Guard Halloween party last month.
And even though, on this day, this bounce house was inside, it again was another harsh reminder of the life they lead now.
Lizzy was 9, and just weeks from starting fourth grade when she and her brother and another child went into a bounce house around 4 p.m. on July 14, 2019.
Seconds later, a gust of wind swept the bounce up into the air, knocking over Wendy.
From inside the blue, red and yellow bounce Lizzy’s head hit the power box, causing serious injury. Two days later, tests confirmed she was brain dead.
It’s a scene Lizzy’s father, Mitch Hammond, who was in Virginia for military training at the time, recreates in his mind since that day.
“Maybe I could have grabbed the tether of the bounce house, or done something, to save my little girl,” said the Storey County Sheriff’s deputy and Army National Guardsman.
“With all my training to save lives of other people, I wasn’t there to save my daughter.”
The Hammond family is still grieving but looks for signs that Lizzy is watching over them. They see them. They ask for her help in navigating their lives now without her but it’s not easy.
They find comfort in knowing Lizzy saved lives.
Lizzy was an organ donor and both her kidneys and her liver went to three other children.
Lizzy will be honored for her donation with her picture in a Donate Life parade float at the Rose Parade on Jan. 1 in Pasadena, Calif.
Donate Life is a nonprofit that raises awareness about organ donation. Annually, the group honors organ recipients and donors in a parade float.
Her family helped place the final pieces of a the portrait made of flowers of Lizzy that will be on the float at Renown Regional Medical Center in Reno on Wednesday.
Dr. Kris Deeter who is the medial director of pediatrics at Renown said the presentation on Wednesday will be emotional. She was at the honor walk for Lizzy.
It was the first time Renown had done a honor walk, where a person on life support is transferred to the operating room for organ retrieval while people line the hallways to pay tribute to the person.
“Over 700 friends and family arrived here to line the hallways to celebrate Lizzy. She was truly a rock star that day and will never be forgotten by the healthcare workers, staff, and support teams that work at Renown Children’s Hospital and Renown Regional,” Deeter said. “We will forever be Lizzy’s fans.”
Wendy and Mitch said they want to talk about Lizzy and are glad her story is still having in impact
“It’s an honor to have Lizzy remembered this way,” Wendy said.
The family has started a foundation and hopes to bring awareness and safety to the bounce house industry. Things haven’t moved as quickly as they had hoped amid the COVID-10 pandemic.
They say the industry is poorly regulated. They said the person who set up the bounce house for the birthday party that day wasn’t licensed and he did not take the necessary steps to keep children safe.
They also plan to use the Libby Hammond Foundation and to inspire people to live like their daughter did. Lizzy donated her time to homeless shelters and the Ronald McDonald House.
On Nov. 12, the family celebrated what would have been Lizzy’s 12th birthday. The family went to get pizza, a place Lizzy had already told her mom she wanted to go for her birthday two years ago.
Then they sang her happy birthday.
And someday they plan to write a letter to the three children who were given Lizzy’s organs.
“It will be good to see that she is still here, in a way,” Mitch said. “It’s what Lizzy would want.”
Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.