Zack Tran would have turned 14-years-old on Sunday. His parents plan to mark the day by hosting a charity book giveaway to honor the memory of a boy who was full of giggles, and who since his death has become the driving force of a push to make soccer fields safer for kids nationwide.
On Friday, the cause got a bittersweet victory, as the Illinois House voted 110-0 to approve a measure that mandates stronger safety standards for soccer goals.
Officially, the measure is Illinois HB 1130, but his parents call it "Zack's Law."
"It’s such a great way to honor his spirit and protect the citizens of Illinois," said Michelle Tran, Zack's mother.
Zack was six years old when he died on a soccer field in north suburban Vernon Hills. A heavy, unstable metal goal tipped over and fell on the little boy.
Under "Zack’s Law," tip-resistant goals would be mandatory for soccer fields. Park districts and soccer clubs also would be required to follow a set of polices to ensure those goals are properly anchored.
"It's long past time for this legislation," said Shawn Kasserman, the Tran family attorney who helped draft the legislation of Zack's law.
"This is a situation, where absent legislation, these goals are going to be continue to be bought and sold in the state of Illinois, and then they’re put out there, and they’re ticking time bombs," he said.
Since Zack's death, there have been nine other deaths as a result of soccer goals toppling over. As a result, his parents established Anchored for Safety, a non-profit group that helps promote soccer goal safety awareness.
"There’s no reason why anyone else has to get hurt by a soccer goal," said Jayson Tran, Zack's father. "The fact that kids are still getting killed is what is keeping us going on, keeping us moving forward, because we don't want anyone to go through what we had to go through."
"Zack's Law" now moves to the Senate, where his parents hope the measure gets the same level of support as it saw in the Illinois House.
The Trans say Zack would be happy to know he's making a difference.
"When he was around, he was just full of spirits, full of energy, and wanting to just live life to its fullest," said his dad. "With this law... he's allowing others to live the life he had in his short six years."
Coincidentally, Zack's two little sisters, born after his death, both play their first soccer games on Sunday, their brother's birthday.
Moist-eyed and her voice trembling, Michelle Tran took note of the significance of their upcoming games.
"That we can feel safe, that we can get to the point where we can let them play soccer is a huge tribute to him," she said.