WESTMINSTER, Colo. – One year ago Friday, Colorado lost an incredible son, brother and athlete when 13-year-old Vaughn Bigelow was gunned down in a suspected road rage incident that devastated his family and the community.
Now, the Bigelow family and friends have found a way to make sure Vaughn’s legacy and his love of water polo never fades – through the tight community where everyone knows and supports one another.
Water polo players and families are a tight-knit community in Colorado, and they felt Vaughn’s loss deeply. He was their teammate and friend – a standout water polo player who truly loved the game. He played up with other age groups at times because of his skill.
“You could just tell that he cared more than anybody else in the pool about the game,” said Ryan Bannon, a 17-year-old water polo player who was a friend of Vaughn’s.
Vaughn’s mother, Meghan, and one of her two other sons were injured in the shooting. Meghan Bigelow spent 54 days in the hospital afterward, and Asa Bigelow has undergone at least 20 surgeries since the shooting.
After the shooting, a fundraising effort for the family raised more than $200,000 – which the Bigelows are using, in part, to establish a scholarship through their Big Waves Foundation to honor their son and give back to the community that gave them so much when they were in crisis.
“Meghan and I recently started Big Waves Foundation in memory of Vaughn Jr. Water was a big part of his life and one of his happy places,” Vaughn Bigelow Sr. wrote on their CaringBridge site on May 14. “We also hope to make waves in both the water polo community (Vaughn Jr.’s favorite sports) and in Gun Sense as a start. Please visit the website www.bigwavesfoundation.com to see what we are working on.”
Ashley Wilkinson, who is a Bigelow family friend and board member of Big Waves, said the Bigelow family is now finding the strength to give back to others.
“They were the family who would always give to others. If you needed something they would always be there,” Wilkinson said. “They had to take those few months and be the receivers of goodness and kindness and love, and now they are ready to start giving that back again.”
Bannon, who just graduated from Broomfield High School with a 4.3 GPA, will be the first recipient of the Vaughn Bigelow, Jr. Memorial Scholarship. He says he applied as soon as he found out the Bigelows were creating the scholarship in their son’s name.
“I just thought that being able to represent his memory would be so honoring,” Bannon told Denver7.
In his application for the scholarship, Bannon said he plans to pursue a degree in history at Washington and Jefferson College, where he also plans to play water polo. He said he also hopes to attend law school at the University of Denver after obtaining an undergraduate degree.
He said water polo has transformed his life and a “catalyst for significant personal growth” and described how he has mentored younger water players and continued to build his personal strengths and integrity through the sport.
The Bigelows chose Bannon to be the first recipient because of his love for water polo, his grades and his volunteer work. He will receive $20,000 in a ceremony in Broomfield on July 8, which is Vaughn’s birthday. Plus, he knows the scholarship is about more than just money.
“The fact that he understands that and has taken that to heart just shows we made the right choice,” Wilkinson said.
Being the first-ever recipient of the scholarship in Vaughn’s name makes Bannon proud.
“It’s just such an honor to get to represent his memory in everything that I do and try to be better just because I know I’m representing him,” he said.
A judge in January entered a not guilty plea on behalf of the suspect in the shooting.
To learn more about the scholarship and Big Waves Foundation, click here.