Students learn how one girl made a difference

Kylie Kuhns, right, was greeted by eighth-grade students Alex Lukow, left, and Meghan Bowman. The girls presented a check for charities operated by Kylie and her family through the organization Kelsey’s Dream.

Greencastle-Antrim Middle School students were introduced to a young girl who is making a difference in the lives of children, and they then went out into the community to do their own good deeds. Friday, Oct. 22, was Make A Difference Day at G-AMS. Activities ranged from volunteering at horse riding centers to cleaning trash around the school campus.

Kylie Kuhns, 13, an eighth grade student from Mifflinburg, told the assembly about her sister Kelsey, who died in 2005 of leukemia. Kelsey had been diagnosed at age 4, was in remission for over two years, suffered a relapse, then received a stem cell transplant from Kylie.

“That kept her alive for two more years,” said the younger sister.

Kelsey died less than a month after her 12th birthday.

A year later Kylie, at age 9, started Kelsey’s Dream, Helping Children in Need, as a way to make life a little brighter for children, especially those with cancer, by involving the community. Small actions led to the organization now participating in nine charitable efforts.

The first fundraiser was an apple butter boil in the backyard, started by her late grandfather, to raise money for Cancer Camp.

“Everything kept growing and growing,” said Kylie.

The annual event is now held at the fairgrounds every October in honor of Kelsey’s birthday, and many people volunteer in preparing the jars for sale.

“It brings the community together to help and have fun. And it helps us heal,” Kylie added.

Other endeavors provide blankets, snack packs and teddy bears for children in various stages of treatment. Kelsey wants Chemo Ducks in every hospital along the east coast. So far they have been placed in 16 states to comfort 2,600 kids.

“The doctor does chemo on the duck before the child,” she explained. “That makes them more comfortable, and they get to keep the duck.”

Kelsey’s Dream also participates in Make A Difference Day in her hometown by holding a winter clothing drive.

Her visit to Greencastle was a first invitation to speak at a school. “Hopefully it is the start of something,” Kylie said with a smile.

G-AMS students soundly applauded her efforts and $767.30 in proceeds from one of the day’s activities was turned over to the surprised girl. An eighth grade team had collected pledges for its Skate-a-Thon.

Youngsters reacted positively to the speech.

“She was really brave,” said Caitlin Silva, seventh grade. “I felt bad for her for all she went through with her sister.”

Sixth-grader Matthew Hull agreed. “I thought it was amazing, the things she did. It’s pretty impressive for a girl that young.”

For her work in promoting Kelsey’s Dream, Kylie received the Prudential Spirit of Community Award at the state and national level. She has been recognized with many other honors since 2007.

She also participates in Builder’s Club though Kiwanis, National Junior Honor Society, softball, soccer and basketball.

About her busy schedule, she said, “I just make it work.”

Betty Harr and Jared Starliper made cards and gift bags at the Greencastle Senior Center during Make a Difference Day.