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New Ontario law named for teen killed by a soccer net requires them to be secured

Soccer net law

The father of a 15-year-old Ontario boy who was killed by a 200-pound soccer net says he is honoured that a new provincial law is named for his son, though he would trade everything to be oblivious to the dangers of such nets and have his son back.

Garrett Mills, from Napanee, Ont., was playing in a park with his girlfriend and his best friend on May 12, 2017, hanging off the crossbar of an unanchored soccer net and doing chin-ups, when the structure fell on top of him and killed him.

Garrett's Legacy Act, which received royal assent last week, establishes requirements for safe usage of movable soccer goals that are used by members of the public.

Shortly before his death, Garrett had out of the blue asked his father what a legacy was.

"Once we had explained it to him, he paused for a moment and really contemplated that for a moment and then said, 'When I go, I want to leave a legacy,'" his father Dave Mills says.

"Four days later, he was gone."

Movable soccer goals have been blamed for more than 40 deaths across North America, mostly of children, said Ric Bresee, the Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament for Hastings-Lennox and Addington who proposed the legislation as a private member's bill.

Mills said it is a huge honour for his son's name to be attached to a law that could be life saving.

"Garrett would have been, probably first and foremost, embarrassed with all this kind of attention, but the thought that maybe this will prevent a similar accident from happening and another kid from experiencing serious harm and another family from having to have their guts ripped out — as my wife so aptly put it a while ago — it's a great feeling," he said.

It has been a long road for Mills in advocating for a law to be enacted. This was the third attempt to get the bill through.

Bresee said he was pleased the bill was supported by all parties and that they all co-operated to get it passed before the legislature rose before an extended summer break.

"Obviously, soccer is a wonderful sport," he said. "We want to encourage people to be out enjoying the fresh air regardless of what sport they're playing, but we need to make sure that people are safe in that process."

Now, Minister of Sport Neil Lumsden will make regulations so the law can come into force. The ministry is working with sport organizations and manufacturers.

"I'm looking forward to effecting change that's going to impact thousands and thousands of young people, and they won't even know it," he said.

"The power of it is going to be long lasting."

Mills said that while he is relieved the law has finally passed, he wants Garrett to be remembered for so much more than just how he died.

"I know a lot of parents probably would wax similarly about their own kids, but he really was kind of cut from a different cloth," he said.

"From the day he was born, we never had an argument with him, ever, not once. We never had to discipline him, ever. He was a peacemaker. He looked to make others happy. Every day, it was like his mission to make people laugh."

He never lost his temper and exuded love for everyone, Mills said.

"I thought to myself, if this kid, who was 15 at the time he passed, could live a life, really so well...surely I could maybe emulate that somewhat and live like that myself. And I had been making that effort. And I still make that effort to live more like Garrett lived," he said.

"I try every day to be that legacy, a part of that legacy that Garrett has left."



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