Thanks to Carter Vigh, children in small towns will have access to accurate, life-saving air quality information.
This month Carter’s parents, Amber and James Vigh, launched Carter’s Project in Partnership with the B.C. Lung Foundation. At the Wonder Gala in Vancouver last Thursday, they raised $74,000 to get the project going. Carter’s mother said there wasn’t a dry eye in the audience as she and James shared his story.
“Unfortunately it took the death of our son (for people) to realize how incredibly important it is for people to have real-time accurate information about air quality, especially during wildfire season,” Vigh said.
When she walked into the gala, Vigh said it was emotional to see so many posters of Carter and to meet the scientists working to understand lung health. She said she and James were humbled to receive the Dr. Peter Paré Award in Lung Health Excellence Award for making a difference in Carter’s name.
“Carter was the most incredible kid and I always knew he was going to make moves in this world. We always say he was going to move mountains and when the B.C. Lung Foundation came to us, I just knew that was him still making those moves and moving those mountains. He would be so proud he’s going to save other kids’ lives.”
Carter lost his life four months ago on July 11, 2023, due to an unexpected asthma attack exacerbated by wildfire smoke. Vigh said she had checked 100 Mile House’s air quality advisory that day to determine if she should send Carter to a summer camp at the South Cariboo Rec Centre.
“The air quality monitor available to us in 100 Mile actually comes from Williams Lake,” Vigh said. “(If you live in 100 Mile House) you know how different the weather can be from Lone Butte to downtown 100 Mile House, so to have our air quality monitor in Williams Lake or Kamloops is a significant difference.”
The advisory read at a two and Vigh said they couldn’t see or smell any smoke. Around noon when the smoke started to roll in Vigh had someone pick Carter up and they stayed inside for the rest of the day until he started to cough violently. After being taken to the hospital his symptoms only worsened and he was pronounced dead at 7:20 p.m.
After his funeral, Vigh said the B.C. Lung Foundation reached out to them and asked if they would be all right with them using his story to raise awareness and money to help monitor air quality in small communities across B.C.
“We have started Carter’s Project with the B.C. Lung Foundation and our goal before last week’s gala was to raise enough money to install 100 purple air monitoring systems throughout 100 Mile House,” Vigh said. “It’s going to start in 100 Mile House and it’s going to give people the ability to check air quality in real-time in the actual area they’re in.”
Vigh said they plan to have them all installed by March ahead of the wildfire season in B.C. She plans to host a town hall in early 2024 to tell the community how they can apply to get one of the monitors installed in their homes and ways they can build an air purification tool for home use. The first two monitors will be installed at the Vigh household, one inside and one outside, to show how different air quality can be.
After the monitoring systems are set up in 100 Mile House, Vigh said she and James intend to keep Carter’s Project going. They want to raise money and install similar systems in small communities across B.C. to ensure everyone has access to accurate air quality monitoring systems.
They also plan to sponsor children with asthma and send them to the B.C. Lung Foundation’s asthma camp. Vigh said this camp provides children with the knowledge and tools to manage their asthma while having a fun time.
Vigh said that while she is proud she and James can do all this in their son’s memory, they’d trade it all in a heartbeat to get him back.
“(Tuesday, Nov. 7) is 17 weeks since the last time we ever got to hug him or talk to him. It’s definitely hard but I’m super proud we can do this for Carter and make a difference in his name,” Vigh said. “I wish it didn’t have to be Carter, I wish he didn’t have to die in order for these changes to be made but we’re going to make a difference for Carter.”