Ray Ray’s Story: A Call to Action for Parents and Caregivers

Our Story

On May 25th 2011 our lives changed forever. Though we awakened a little late, the day started as usual: we played for an hour with our daughter (she was a morning person) before getting her dressed for daycare. It was tropical day: the children were to wear “tropical” attire. We dressed Ray Ray in a cute little flowered dress and she smiled back as if she knew she looked so adorable. We carried Ray Ray to the car and placed her in her car-seat. We kissed her and told her we loved her as we buckled her in her seat, and she waved the most mysterious goodbye to us: a wave we had never seen before and one we would never forget. It was the last goodbye we would ever have from our little angel.

Brett drove away in his truck with Ray Ray tucked securely in her carseat. She dozed off into sleep, probably tired from playing all morning with us. Then our perpetual nightmare began: for reasons we do not know or understand, Brett drove past the turn that he would normally take to drop Ray Ray off at daycare. A simple left hand turn, beyond which daycare is only about 300 yards away. He turned right instead. Why? This is a question that will haunt us forever. Brett continued his drive to work, assuming that our daughter was safely in the hands of her daycare teachers and enjoying tropical day. We carried on with our regular work routine.

A few hours later we met at Brett’s office for a lunch date before I went out of town for a business event. As we drove to lunch, we talked in the car about Ray Ray and how pretty she looked for Tropical day. Suddenly, Brett’s heart skipped two beats and his mind raced chaotically as he tried to understand why he could not remember seeing the reaction from her loving teachers about her cute little Tropical day dress. Reality hit. Brett’s heart sunk to the bottom of his chest: he couldn’t remember dropping Ray Ray off at daycare that morning! He screamed out loud for me to get us back to his office as fast as possible.

We raced through traffic lights, stop signs, one-way streets, and arrived at Brett’s office in record time. We called the office manager as we drove, instructing her to check the truck. As Brett was awaiting a response from the office manager I called the daycare. When the teacher confirmed she was not there, I hung up and immediately called 911. Simultaneously the office called 911 as well. The nightmare had happened. Ray Ray had been forgotten in the truck for nearly three hours in 90 degree heat.

The office manager took Ray Ray out of the truck, ran cool water over her body, and began rescue efforts—she was still alive, making gurgling sounds and having difficulty breathing. I continued aggressive attempts at resuscitation once we arrived while the office staff stayed on the line with 911. Our last visions of our living daughter were of her lying on the floor as she lost consciousness and CPR was being performed. She gazed into mommy and daddy’s eyes one last time. That will haunt us forever. One hour and 19 minutes after this nightmare began she was pronounced dead.

We have asked ourselves thousands of times how could this happen. Where did we go wrong? How could either of us ever possibly forget our most precious gift? How can we ever move forward? How can we ever live after this? Can we ever forgive ourselves?

We searched for answers and to our shock we found that we were not alone. Data derived from media reports of child hot car deaths from 1998 through 2010 suggest that, in 51% of cases, these children were “forgotten” by their guardian. Forty-four percent of these “forgotten” children were supposed to have been dropped off at daycare/ pre-school on the morning of their tragedy. That’s more than 1 in every 5 child deaths due to vehicular heatstroke!

Ray Ray’s Call to Action

Ray Ray’s Pledge aims to prevent the more than 1 in every 5 child hot car deaths due to heatstroke that occur because the child was not dropped off at daycare in the morning and his/her whereabouts went unquestioned. It takes a village to raise a child, and good communication in this village is key to prevention of tragedy. Ray Ray’s Pledge is designed to create a safety net surrounding a child’s morning drop-off time at daycare—a time when parents may be vulnerable to human error, as history has proven from our story as well as the stories of more than 100 other known families who also never imagined that this could happen to them.

This CAN happen to YOU! Please don’t be the next victim! By signing the pledge, you are committing to keeping your child’s teacher informed of any planned changes in morning drop off. In exchange, your child’s teacher is committing to you that he/she will act as your guardian angel by calling you if your child does not arrive on time and a planned tardiness/absence has not already been communicated. The first and most important step relies on YOU: please communicate planned absences to the teachers so that they can provide an effective safety net to your family when one is needed. DO NOT allow yourselves to become a statistic! MAKE THE PLEDGE, and take it seriously. The risk of heatstroke is too often an unheeded risk to child safety, one that we learned of after it was too late.

About the Author

Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero currently works as a Senior Medical Scientist for a major biopharma company. She received her Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.) degree with Honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and performed her residency training in pharmacy practice with a focus in critical care at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero possesses more than a decade of clinical experience in both academic teaching hospitals and community hospitals, and she also has extensive experience within the pharmaceutical industry. Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero dedicates her free time to educating parents and raising community awareness of the risks of child car deaths due to heatstroke, and she serves as a Hyperthermia Awareness Parent Advocate for Safe Kids USA. Moreover, Dr. Reeves-Cavaliero is the co-founder of Ray Ray’s Pledge, a program that was developed in response to the untimely death due to heatstroke of her one-year old daughter, Sophia Rayne (“Ray Ray”) Cavaliero.


9 Responses to “Ray Ray’s Story: A Call to Action for Parents and Caregivers”

  1. steve barragan says:

    I”ve been following all the comments on kids being left in cars since 1998. It hit me so hard I decided to come up with something to prevent this problem. So I invented a device that alerts the driver as soon as the driver door opens, that there is still someone in the car. If this is truly a tragedy then someone needs to respond to me. This is not rocket science. It comes in a small box, it’s self powered, self operating and cost $ooooo to hook up. It’s portable and affordable. This would be the greatest baby shower gift ever to hit the shelves.

  2. Ena Cain says:

    Please contact me, My name is Ena Cain I work with children everyday. I am committed, to children/families. I have spent, my life saving on (My Baby Alert) which is a
    device that will prevent parents/caregivers from leaving children in hot cars. ” For the children sake”


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  2. […] “those horrible people who should never have been allowed near children”. Take a minute to read Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero’s story about the day her husband Brett took one wrong turn and drove to the office instead of dropping […]

  3. […] I lost my daughter, Sophia Rayne “Ray Ray” Cavaliero, to vehicular #heatstroke on Wednesday afte…. That morning, our entire family overslept. Speaking in retrospect (after observing my 20 month old twins during the same phase of their lives), I think we overslept because it was the first time that Ray Ray finally slept through the night. We always called her our little alarm clock, because without fail she would awaken to nurse at 5:00 am, then sweetly drift back to sleep until about 7:30 am. Then we usually played with her for an hour or so before her daddy took her to daycare around 9:00 am. Ray Ray’s behavior was so predictable that I no longer set an alarm clock to awaken. That morning began with me awakening to my sweet child giving me precious kisses all over my face, followed by a glance at the clock. As I saw the time of 9:43 am, chaos ensued in my home. We had all overslept! Brett rushed to get dressed for work; I rushed to get Ray Ray fed and dressed for daycare. The entire family then hurried to daddy’s truck (I was still in PJs). […]

  4. […] horrible people who should never have been allowed near children”. Take a minute to read Kristie Reeves-Cavaliero’s story about the day her husband Brett took one wrong turn and drove to the office instead of dropping […]

  5. […] If you think it can’t happen to you, please think again. (Ray Ray’s Story) […]

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