LAYTON, Utah — After their son was hit and killed by a car on a dark Halloween night, one Utah family is raising awareness for trick-or-treat safety.
Around the corner of a quiet Layton neighborhood, you’ll find a small cul-de-sac tucked away near 975 East and 260 South.
A clown with a red balloon sticks out of the gutter at the entrance.
Then, each house gets spookier than the next.
Ghosts and spiders hanging from the trees, a barn house butcher cooks up “human flesh” and a graveyard stretches across two properties under a large spider’s web.
Amid the gore and ghouls, you’ll see large baseball-shaped posters sticking out of the laws. On them, a picture and the words, “In loving memory, Jayden B Rathbone 09-28-98 to 11-26-11.”
“He loved Halloween, he loved the scary, he loved to dress up,” said Jayden’s mother, Crystal Conover.
This year marks the ninth anniversary of the Halloween night accident that claimed her son’s life.
“That night he was out trick-or-treating with his dad, and they were in Uinta on a very dark road and a woman… she said that she saw the overhead lights from the vehicle that [Jayden] had just gotten out of and she kind of veered off the road a little and hit him,” Crystal said as she recalled the painful details.
Jayden was taken to a local hospital, then taken by helicopter to Primary Children’s Hospital.
“I ran in yelling, ‘where’s my son,’” she said. “My son was ash gray when I walked in and he was on life support… more tubes, more IVs than I’ve ever seen in a human being in my entire life.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Crystal and Jayden’s father made the difficult decision to remove their son from life support.
“I hated Halloween, I hated everything about it, I didn’t want anything to do with it, I was angry, very angry,” Crystal continued.
Then, out of pain, she found purpose.
“He loved the holiday, it was his favorite holiday, let’s turn a negative into a positive – decorate.”
It started out small. Each neighbor would put out the Halloween decorations they had and, in lieu of candy, began passing out glow sticks or flashlights to trick-or-treaters on Halloween night.
“We believe a seen child, is a live child and if my story of my son, or my son’s story, brings awareness to children, to teenagers, to parents, to drivers, it’s worth doing every year,” Crystal continued.
Crystal believes each decoration, light and sound honor her son’s memory.
“This is him, this is what he would have wanted,” said Crystal.
But, to ensure the message is not lost, a sign also stands at the entrance. It reads:
Help Jayden Light the Way
In loving memory of Jayden. These yards are decorated as a memorial to raise awareness not only to parents, children and teens but to drivers out there. Please be aware of your surroundings and take extra precaution. Jayden was 13-years old and hit by a car on a dark road on Halloween night in 2011. Take this glow stick to help “Light the Way” which trick-or-treating tonight. In honor of Jayden Rathbone we will raise awareness and work to keep everyone safe.
With more than two weeks until the holiday, the sign has already drawn drivers to the area.
”I drove by and saw the sign and thought holy cow,” said Lewis Weaver as his family explored the neighborhood yards.
For Weaver, the sign brought back haunting memories.
“I was there, I was the first EMT on scene,” he said as he shook his head. “It was pretty traumatic.”
Weaver introduced himself to Crystal. She wiped tears from her eyes and thanked him for the work he and his team were able to do.
Now, Crystal hopes her son’s legacy can live on - encouraging safety for others.
“My son’s not out there, my son’s not trick-or-treating, but what keeps my driving and going further is that other kids can be safe,” she said.
“If his story can save one child’s life, if it can open the eyes of one driver to not be distracted, to slow down… [Then] my son didn’t die for nothing,” she added.
Come Halloween night, Crystal said the neighbors will offer a trunk-or-treat style gathering to help maintain social distance while honoring Jayden’s life. They invite others to join and intend to pass out candy and glow sticks.
Already, the “Help Jayden Light the Way” initiative has spread to other Utah neighborhoods and homes in other states. Crystal hopes even more families will get involved by passing out glow sticks instead of candy this Halloween.