The parents of a six-year-old girl who drowned just hours after being dropped off at a local summer day camp have started a foundation to protect young children, work with state lawmakers on legislation that would force day camps to obtain licenses before they can operate, and develop stronger swimming safety protocols.

The Meow Meow Foundation (MMF) was announced at a Rally for Roxie on Saturday. The rally was held in honor of Roxie Forbes, who drowned at Summerkids Camp in Altadena in June. The foundation was named after her favorite feline doll. 

Camp counselors designated Roxie a non-swimmer after testing the swimming abilities of all the kids attending the camp. Despite this, four counselors working on the second day of camp did not notice Roxie face down in the camp’s pool, according to a report on the incident by the LA County Department of Coroner.

According to Forbes, Roxie was dead when she was pulled from the water. However, she was resuscitated and placed on life support. Because she was diagnosed as brain dead, her parents decided to end her life.

Since then, Forbes and Matyas have endured the unthinkable tragedy of parents who have lost a child.

“Our new script reads something like this: Wake up to pin-drop silence,” Doug Forbes wrote in a column appearing in the Pasadena Weekly in August. “Wait for the rapid pitter-patter of a little girl’s footsteps toward our bedroom door. Realize that the imminent euphoria will soon be consumed by the chaotic drumbeat of despair.”

Forbes continued, “Then comes the shaking to the bone. Then the wailing. Then the deep breaths to mitigate panic. Then the silence. And then the cruel, constant reprise of agony.”

The column was viewed more than 10,000 times on the Pasadena Weekly’s website.

California is one of only 13 states to allow day camps to operate without a license. Summerkids Camp is also not accredited by the American Camp Association, an organization that provides operational guidance.

“The fact that California licenses day care centers and not day camps is beyond comprehension. And now this gaping wide hole has someone who fell into it—Roxie Mirabelle Forbes,” Forbes wrote in his column. “We will make sure children have the comprehensive protections they deserve, not just at camps, but all recreational facilities, and even backyards.”

Saturday’s event began with a sing-along which led to a march from San Rafael Elementary School to San Rafael Park led by Roxie’s former music teacher at Pacific Oaks Children’s School.

At the park, there was an art project for children and dancers from the Academy of Polynesian Arts performed. Dinosaur Farm, the Rose Bowl Aquatics Center (RBAC) and the Kitchen for Exploring Foods also contributed to the event. A deejay from the Los Angeles-based nonprofit radio station Dublab provided music.

Speakers included Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek and Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Democrat and former Pasadena City Council member.

The Meow Meow Foundation is working with Holden and state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-Pasadena) to pass legislation that will require California day camps to be licensed. The legislation is still in the early stages, according to Forbes.

The RBAC has partnered with the foundation to develop a water safety and drowning prevention model.

“Our foundation will end this senseless, ceaseless battery of preventable near-drowning incidents and drowning deaths, the leading cause of injury-related death in US children ages 1 to 4 and the third leading cause of unintentional injury for those ages 5 to 19,” Forbes wrote in his column in PW. “We will also support pediatric health initiatives through Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.”

To contact Forbes, write to dougliveshere@gmail.com.