In honor of Will

Through the Will King Foundation, Courtney and Taylor Hughes ’11 are helping children in need of treatment for heart conditions.

Courtney and Taylor Hughes have a deep connection to Elon University. After all, they met through Elon’s Christian organization, Campus Outreach, and got married just one month after graduation in 2011. Their faith is strong, and it shows. It’s what has sustained them in the face of adversity and given them purpose through it all.

After graduation, the couple moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, began professional careers and had their first son. Eight months later, they moved back to Courtney’s hometown of Jacksonville, Florida, had a daughter and soon were expecting twins. The twins, Will and Caroline, were born healthy, but their health quickly turned dire at their first check up when the pediatrician noticed low temperatures and jaundice.

Twins Will & Caroline

At first, Courtney and Taylor were not alarmed. The pediatrician suggested calmly that they take the twins to the emergency room to help bring their temperatures back up. Two weeks later, Will and Caroline were still in the pediatric intensive care unit. The twins had tested positive for enterovirus, which in adults manifests as the common cold. In infants like Will and Caroline, the virus causes multisystem organ failure and septic shock. “There were a lot of times where we thought we were going to lose both of them,” Courtney says, thinking back. “They just kept overcoming everything the doctor said was going to happen, which was amazing.”

Then, the unthinkable happened. On March 6, 2018, Will King Hughes passed away at just 96 days old, leaving Courtney and Taylor unsure of how to navigate their lives without one of their children. “We had no idea what to do, how to move on and take a step into this new life without Will,” Courtney says. “And we knew we wanted to do something to honor him, but we didn’t know exactly what that was.”

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About two weeks after Will’s passing, Courtney and Taylor were talking with Courtney’s parents about the experience of losing their son and how they wanted to honor him. Despite the grief being new and raw, the couple still knew they wanted to take action. “That next morning, I woke up with it on my heart,” Courtney recalls. “We should use Will’s story and his experience to help another child who doesn’t have the same type of access to the care that he had access to.”

Though Courtney wasn’t entirely sure how this idea would come to fruition, she knew where to start. Courtney and Taylor had developed a great relationship with Dr. Jose Ettedgui, the twins’ cardiologist at the hospital. Ettedgui runs an organization called Patrons of the Heart and for 15 years he has been bringing children from developing countries to Jacksonville for them to receive life-saving heart treatment.

When Courtney called asking for ideas on how to get involved with helping children, Ettedgui mentioned a young girl named Avery from Grenada who was coming to Jacksonville for heart treatment. She needed $5,000 in sponsorship and in just a few weeks, through a generous outpouring of support, Courtney and Taylor were able to raise the money. By the end of that year, the couple knew that they had figured out how to honor their son: They started the Will King Foundation.

I think it’s been really neat to see the way that God has used Will’s life to give us an opportunity to reach the nations

Each year the organization sponsors two to three children in need of medical care through Patrons of the Heart. These children receive life-saving heart treatment as well as a community support system they wouldn’t otherwise have. “We lost our child, but there are a lot of parents around the world who don’t have to lose theirs just because they don’t have access to the kind of care we had access to,” Courtney says.

As Courtney and Taylor look toward the future of the Will King Foundation, they want to make sure funds are secure for future treatment and that these programs are sustainable. One of the organization’s big goals is to establish an endowment through the Baptist Health Foundation as well as continue the work they have been doing. “I think it’s been really neat to see the way that God has used Will’s life to give us an opportunity to reach the nations,” Courtney says. “Now we have kids from all over the world coming back here to our city to receive heart treatment. While they’re here, we’re able to help them and support them and send them home with a children’s Bible.

“They’re able to take that message back to their city. They now are going home with a healthy heart and a really good outlook about their life expectancy.”

For more information about the Will King Foundation, visit