Because Logan Wood: Promoting safety in the outdoors
By Ford Walpole
Unfortunately, life is not fair. When devastating events cruelly remind us of this reality, we are challenged to discover ways somehow to make something good emerge from tragedy. This past year, a community from the Lowcountry sea islands came together to do just that.
“On January 13, 2022, Logan Matthew Wood went duck hunting with his friends. While separate from them, there was an accident and Logan did not return. As [Logan was] an experienced fisherman and overall outdoorsman, this was not something we imagined would ever happen, but we have realized that accidents do happen,” states the Because Logan Wood Foundation on their website.
Kim Ambrose has been friends with Logan’s mother since the two were in high school. “My daughter Grace and Logan were six months apart in age, and they were very close. As far as I’m concerned, Logan is my nephew!” she says.
The night Logan went missing, Kim and other supporters gathered at the Cherry Point Boat Landing in Rockville to help those involved in the search-and-rescue efforts. They soon moved their home base to the nearby home of her in-laws, Babs and Pete Ambrose. From there, they offered support and delivered water and coffee to those involved in the search.
“When it happened, we all just wanted to find him. Other people who didn’t know Logan jumped in their boats and looked for him all night long. The amount of people who came out and helped and brought food to the searchers — that was just huge! It really helped the family. Everybody wanted to help, but you can only get so many casseroles, so Logan’s parents Bo and Crystal eventually agreed to a GoFundMe account.”
On Saturday, two days after Logan went missing, “we decided it would be nice to get everybody together to send out prayers and positive thoughts and to hold up the family. Everybody donated and brought food; it was just unreal. The candlelight vigil was a way for people to get together, and being together was really important,” Kim recalls.
At the vigil, one of Logan’s close friends, Parker Nelson of Rockville, remarked: “You know why we are doing this, don’t you? It’s because … Logan Wood.” At that moment, the group’s slogan was born: Because Logan Wood.
Soon after Logan was recovered, the group wanted to honor his memory by promoting boater safety. Jaye Dane, Kim’s aunt, mentioned buying some inflatable life jackets, “so we decided that was what we would do with the leftover funds. On the last day of duck season, we distributed 200 life jackets and kill switches” at a number of popular boat landings for waterfowlers. “Many hunters had heard about Logan’s accident, and they were open and receptive. If just one hunter thinks about it and wears the life jacket and uses the kill switch, then that is what it is all about.”
West Marine reached out and provided 200 life jackets at half price. “They have honored that discount every time we have asked to buy more, and they have never asked for any publicity.”
Pam Doty, National Water Safety Program Manager of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, also wanted to pay tribute to Logan through their “Please Wear It” program. In January, the Army Corps’ social media pages will post the following message: “To honor Logan, please go out and enjoy duck hunting, but play it safe by wearing a life jacket and engine cutoff device.”
Throughout the search for Logan, S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) “was great; they understood, they were helpful, and they worked their butts off!” Kim says. Game wardens Benjamin Whaley and Andrew Godowns attended the vigil. “Ben has just been awesome, and he deserves recognition for how well he handled everything. Ben and Andrew have been involved with us ever since. They have been 100 percent behind us, and they love what we’re doing.
“Some people feel uncomfortable around DNR, since they come across as cops, so we can serve to bridge that gap and show people that DNR is on your side. They’re not trying to tell you what to do; they just want to make sure you come home.”
A petition on the Because Logan Wood website encourages boater safety in Logan’s name: “We would like to introduce to the S.C. Legislature Logan’s Law, which will provide FREE Boating and Hunting Safety courses to ALL High School students in the state of S.C. as part of the PE curriculum. This will not only promote safe practices for all children in S.C. as well as provide guidelines for a boating safety course requirement (similar to the current hunting safety course requirement) that anyone, resident or non-resident, born on or after June 30, 1979, will be required to carry when operating a boat in the state of S.C. We do not seek to restrict use on any individuals; we hope to educate and keep our rivers, lakes and oceans safe for everyone.”
On April 23, a memorial for Logan was held. “Crystal likes that it was called a ‘celebration of life’ because that is exactly what it was. She doesn’t look at it that she lost Logan; she is just glad she was able to have the time with him that she did have,” Kim says.
Kim discusses the motivation for the Because Logan Wood Fishing Tournament, which was held on May 21, Logan’s 19th birthday. Nine committee members “wanted to do something to honor Logan, and a fishing tournament just came naturally to us. It was a learning curve and a lot of work. We realized that to raise money, we needed to establish a foundation, which we did.” Numerous sponsors signed on and offered generous donations, and 244 people participated in the event.
The group sought to sponsor one kid per year to attend the S.C. Waterfowl Association’s Camp Woodie, where campers receive an outdoor experience, their S.C. Boater Safety Course, and their Hunter Education. Through a donation of $15,000 with proceeds from the fishing tournament, “one camper will now attend camp in perpetuity — in Logan’s name!”
The weigh-in was held at the Ambrose home on Adams Creek in Rockville, where Crystal Wood presented awards to the winners. Ripley Light Marina hosted another weigh-in for those anglers wishing to fish the harbor. Offshore species included dolphin and wahoo while inshore anglers pursued flounder, spottail bass, black drum and sheepshead. First-place winners were awarded $400, second place earned $250 and third place brought $100. Additional categories included Youth Angler and Lady Angler.
After the dolphin weigh-in, Logan’s older brother, Jackson Wood, took first place for the biggest flounder, which recorded 6.4 pounds. Jackson chose to give his prize money to the foundation, a move that proved infectious; once he did so, every subsequent winner followed suit. In all, the successful inaugural tournament raised $61,000.
One of the fishing tournament sponsors wants to extend the positive energy of the event. “Hendrick Lexus Charleston would like to continue to promote boat safety, responsible caretaking and the Lowcountry’s overall love for the outdoors. During the month of July, Hendrick Lexus Charleston challenges YOU to take a photo in your boat with your life jacket on, kill switch engaged and the fish you caught. Share this photo on the “Because Logan Wood” Facebook page using hashtags #HendrickCares #BecauseLoganWood #HendrickAutomotiveGroup #HendrickLexusCharleston. All of these qualifiers will enter you into a CASH contest for $1,000. Remember, accidents can happen to even the most experienced boaters. Please help us continue to spread awareness and bring our families home safe.” Steve Strickland, executive general manager of Hendrick Luxury Group in Charleston, will in turn challenge other Hendrick dealerships as well as the rest of the Because Logan Wood Fishing Tournament sponsors to continue the promotion.
The Logan Wood Foundation continues to make plans for the future. Next year, they hope to have 500 people enter the fishing tournament, and they want to sponsor additional children to attend Camp Woodie. “We are still working on keeping the mission up. We plan to have a fall event, but we are still working on what that will be. We are still giving out life jackets, and we are working with DNR to conduct safety checks at boat landings. Next year, we will be back out there for the opening day of duck season,” Kim says.
Crystal and Bo Wood appreciate the tribute to their son and the good cause that emerged from his tragedy, and they want to encourage parents to “take your kids hunting and fishing — Because Logan Wood!”
Kim continues, “We hope Logan’s accident will make people remember and think about it and be a little safer. We want to keep this momentum going by making it cool to wear a life jacket when you are by yourself and to use a kill-switch no matter what. If kids see their dads practicing safety, then they will, too, and it will take off!” To support this great cause, visit https://www.becauseloganwood.com/ and check out Because Logan Wood on Facebook and Instagram.
Ford Walpole lives and writes on John’s Island and is the author of many articles on the outdoors. He teaches English at James Island Charter High School and the College of Charleston and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.