Finley’s Fast Feet: Local Family Honors Son Through Advocacy

Finley’s Fast Feet: Local Family Honors Son Through Advocacy
Finley Webb loved to run with his teddy bear.

Almost everyone remembers March 2020 as a difficult month, but one Jacksonville family was dealt an unimaginable tragedy just as the world seemed like it was falling apart. Emily and Charles Webb lost their middle child, Finley, and they are still looking for answers. 

“March 15, 2020, was a Sunday,” said Finley’s mom, Emily Webb. “The country started learning about COVID that Friday before he passed away. I remember being at Publix that Saturday, stocking up on food, hearing that Duval County schools were extending their spring break. It was a wild time.”

That next day started out like a normal north Florida Sunday. Emily Webb took her children to Neptune Beach, where they played in the tidepools and had a picnic. “On the way home, Finley fell asleep in the car seat, which was very typical,” she said. “We got home, and I picked him up and asked if he wanted to finish his lunch or lay back down, he said he wanted to lay back down. At 1:00, I checked on him, he was fine, he was sleeping.”

When she checked on him at 2:00, Finley was not breathing.

“We called 911, [my husband] Charles performed CPR but we could not resuscitate him. At that point the ambulance came, they also had lots of questions while they tried to resuscitate him. They took him to Wolfson [Children’s Hospital], but they were unable to get a heartbeat.”

The medical examiner who performed Finley’s autopsy could find no cause of death. In fact, Finley’s death remains unexplained to this day. Without a clear cause of death, cases like Finley’s are categorized as Sudden Unexplained Death in Childhood, or SUDC. Unlike the more-familiar SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), SUDC affects children between 1 and 18.

“It can happen to all children,” Webb said. “A healthy child falls asleep, or is taking a nap, sometimes a child sort of passes out, they become unresponsive and cannot be rehabilitated.”

Emily and Charles Webb with Baton (9), Madeline (5) and Sawyer (18 mo.)
Emily and Charles Webb with Baton (9), Madeline (5) and Sawyer (18 mo.)

The medical examiner was familiar with this condition, and helped the Webbs connect with the SUDC Foundation. According to the foundation’s website, SUDC affected around 450 children in the U.S. in 2021.

The mission of the SUDC Foundation is threefold: they collect data on families who have experienced SUDC, they fund research on potential causes of SUDC, and they provide support at no cost to families in the form of weekly counseling, annual retreats, and group therapy opportunities.

“You get to navigate it together, with someone who understands exactly what you’re going through,” Webb said. “All loss is hard, but when it’s unexpected and a child, people don’t know how to react. That’s why we advocate; we want families to be aware, but we want this foundation to get as much money as they can to provide these services to families.”

The Webbs have given samples of Finley’s blood and tissue to the SUDC Foundation, as well as donated their own genetic information for testing.

Finley’s Fast Feet 5k drew nearly 100 people in March 2023.
Finley’s Fast Feet 5k drew nearly 100 people in March 2023.

The first months after Finley’s death were a fog of grief, but eventually the Webbs decided to use their time and energy to help families in similar circumstances.

“I’m a pretty active runner and he loved running with me,” Webb said of Finley. “He would run with his teddy bear. We thought Finley’s Fast Feet would be the perfect name.”  In March 2022, they held the first Finley’s Fast Feet 5k to raise money for the SUDC Foundation, and around 60 people participated. This March, the number increased to 100, and $4,000 was raised. The 5k starts at the Webbs’ home and retraces Finley’s favorite neighborhood spots. 

In addition to the 5k, the Webbs also purchased 350 new books and donated them to local schools, like St. John’s Presbyterian Preschool, where Finley was a student, and Fishweir Elementary, where he would currently be enrolled. Each book has an SUDC sticker on the inside with Finley’s name on it. The family has also planted a tree in Boone Park, as well as inscribed a brick in the park with Finley’s name.

Madeline Webb participates in the Finley’s Fast Feet 5k.
Madeline Webb participates in the Finley’s Fast Feet 5k.

“He loved going there and playing,” Webb said. “It makes us feel good to see people admiring his trees, and saying his name. It means so much to hear people say his name.”

By Windy Taylor
Resident Community News

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