In June 2016, the parents of Lane Graves found themselves in an unthinkable situation. Just two days into their dream Walt Disney World vacation, the couple were playing with their daughter and two-year-old son along the shores of the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa at dusk when an alligator came out of the water and dragged Lane under. Although Lane just had his toes in the water of the Seven Seas Lagoon, the alligator was still able to get a good grasp on him before his parents could even react. Lane's father, Matt, immediately rushed into the water to try to rescue Lane but the powerful alligator was just too much for him to take on. Lane's mother, Melissa, yelled for help, but Lane quickly disappeared into the dark and murky waters. Feeling helpless, the parents were up all night praying for a miracle as rescuers combed the waters all until dawn. After a long and anguished night, Lane's lifeless body was finally pulled from the water 16 hours after the initial attack. Lane's death was officially ruled an accident but Disney acted quickly to comb the many waterways of the resort, eventually pulling out 95 alligators and relocating them elsewhere. Disney also put up warning signs all around the waterways throughout the resort and built fences around high-risk areas.
Through their grief, the Graves family launched a foundation aimed at helping other parents who suddenly lose a child. The Lane Graves Foundation also helps to spread awareness about organ donation, an issue that the Graves family feels strongly about. One year after the tragic incident, Matt spoke about the promise that his family made to Lane at his wake. Since then, the family has worked tirelessly to turn this tragedy into something positive as a way to honor their beloved son's memory. On what should have been Lane's third birthday, the family all gathered at their home in Nebraska to release blue balloons into the heavens. The entire community turned out wearing blue shirts to honor the little boy's legacy. Attendees even got to eat Lane's favorite M&M cookies. A little over one year after the accident, Disney honored Lane with a lighthouse statue dedicated to his memory. Placed along the Seven Seas Lagoon, this statue symbolizes hope and Disney's commitment to building strong family ties.
Two year's after the accident, the Graves family welcomed a new addition to their family. Christian Lane Graves joins big sister Ella in this world. Matt and Melissa chose the name to honor Lane, recognizing that although the pain of losing Lane will never go away, they still feel so grateful to be blessed with another child to love and adore. Although losing Lane will always leave a big mark on the hearts of those that loved him so much, the inception of the Lane Graves Foundation is helping the family to cope with the loss as they channel their grief into something positive. The Graves family's commitment to keeping the memory of Lane alive is something that they do not just for Lane, but for the entire community that has rallied around them in their time of great loss.