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A father's crusade to honor Amanda

Kenneth Hansen spends much of each day tending to the Amanda Hansen Foundation, established shortly after his 16-year-old daughter died of carbon monoxide poisoning in 2009. Since then, he and his wife, Kimberly, have worked to raise public awareness about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

One notable achievement is Amanda's Law, state legislation that requires CO detectors in all residences, but Hansen, 47, believes it's the personal connections that make the most difference. That's why he and his wife raise funds to purchase detectors that they distribute free to the community. By the end of this month, they will have handed out 5,000 detectors.

People Talk: How tough is it for the little guy to get a law on the books?

Kenneth Hansen: There's a lot of work in it, but we had the help of Assemblyman Mark Schroeder. He guided us through. They say it was the fastest law to be passed in New York State. It took six months, but we did a lot of campaigning.

Right now we have the law going national, so it passed through the House of Representatives. Congressman [Brian] Higgins is helping. We've been working with different foundations in the country. We're still pushing.

PT: Do you keep a journal?

KH: I started to, but not anymore. I find my therapy just being out in the public and working on the foundation. It never gets easier, though, so if I cry, don't get upset.

PT: Tell me about a special father moment.

KH: We did so much together. Probably the last great moment was [Amanda's] 16th birthday. She wanted a big party, so we rented her a limousine, had a banquet room at Chef's and then went bowling. She was a little queen for the day. It's so hard, because I was so involved with the school. On my lunch hours I used to go down to the school and read with the kids. I used to be the school mascot. I dressed up as a dinosaur, but now they changed it to a wildcat. I guess after me, they couldn't get anyone else to wear the dinosaur costume.

PT: Having one child intensifies those moments. Any thoughts of having more children?

KH: We talked a little about it, but I think it's too hard. When we had Amanda, we didn't want any more, because we were just so in love with her. So now we talked about it, and I don't know if we could give the same kind of love. Would Amanda be upset at us? You know.

PT: You have a lot of love to give.

KH: Yes. Everyone said we were great parents, and we made one mistake.

PT: What have you learned from all of this?

KH: I'm appreciating people more. If someone got under my skin before, I'd just stay away from them, but now I am more open to them. People tell me about their problems, and I try to help because until you've lost a child you don't know what a problem is -- I think -- and I hear some doozies.

PT: Did you consider moving?

KH: We just moved eight months ago. We loved our other home, but there were just too many memories. We couldn't even go in her room. So we went for a fresh start, and we'll see what happens. We try to take steps.

PT: What are you doing on Father's Day?

KH: Probably a lot of crying. We don't celebrate holidays anymore. We support each other. We haven't cooked for Thanksgiving yet. Everything we just try to avoid right now. On Christmas we went to Aruba, sat on the beach and listened to the waves all day.

PT: If you don't mind me asking, did you consider therapy?

KH: We've done it, and the counselor we were seeing said we were pretty amazing, that we were doing everything she would recommend. We also tried group therapy, but everyone is sitting crying, and we leave more depressed. I take my depression into other projects, like I had the [Children's Memorial Park] redone.

PT: And Amanda's Law.

KH: We actually just did an amendment to the law, which is being introduced hopefully before they go on break. There's been an outbreak of fatal incidents in ice rinks. There are no CO detectors in ice rinks because they are considered a public building, and yet they have the most CO. There are no exhaust systems in ice rinks, and when you get that Zamboni going -- it's gas powered -- and the CO is high.

PT: Did you think you had this talent of organizing in you?

KH: It was an instinct that just took over. There's a lot of friends, a lot of support. I'm always there helping everyone else, doing things for everyone else. Everyone says I'm doing too much for everybody. That's how I am.

PT: What's the last thing you've done for yourself?

KH: That's a good question. Anything I think of doing always involves Amanda. To me, it's 2 4/7 . I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea -- like how to get CO detectors into more homes. So I get up and go on the computer. Hopefully we'll save one more child.

e-mail: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com