Faces in the Crowd: Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation
For a such a young child, Kenadi Jean Weis left a huge mark in this world. And her legacy continues to this day from the efforts of those she left behind.
SPEARFISH, S.D. — Kenadi Weis, a young girl born with a brain injury at birth who had delays and was nonverbal, but communicated through her eyes and her smile. She was 5 1/2 years old when she passed away unexpectedly from pneumonia – leaving a huge void in the hearts of those whose lives she touched.
Kelly Weis-Schultz, Kenadi’s mom, says, “We were left with what we call a Kennedy size hole in our lives, which actually despite her small size was pretty tremendous … so we thought to ourselves what could we do in a really healthy way to grieve appropriately. And that was just looking at what we would have liked to of had when she was here, and so does began the Kenadi Weis Foundation which began in March 2014.”
In it’s 5th year now, the foundation has made leaps and bounds not only for all-inclusive swing seats and inclusive playgrounds in Spearfish, but also for building up an all-inclusive community with a large outreach. Among their outreach, they host butterfly day in schools, promoting unique and different abilities and how to be a friend. They also have a scholarship for excellent special education teachers at Black Hills State University.
Kelly says, “We initially thought to ourselves, what would we like to of seen while Kenadi was here and it evolved into really helping the community and other kids like her – helping them to be able to have what we consider a typical life just in a different way. ”
The foundation set out to educate communities and promote a more inclusive and loving place for everyone to live.
Tessa Braddy, Kenadi’s Aunt, says, “What we want people to take away from the foundation is just to love others for who they are and to see people for their differences and to know that they have someone to support them. And to really just enjoy people for their uniqueness, for their differences and honestly if they see someone who is different from them, to just reach out and connect with them in someway. That’s what we’d love to see — more inclusiveness, more acceptance and just a helping hand for those who are a part of our community.”
Kelly says if Kenadi was living today she would have loved the chance to play with her friends and relatives at one of the all inclusive parks.
Kelly says, “To be able to access this entire place and that just creating friends and playing with her cousins … I get to watch other kids who may have some special needs be able to do that and that to me is Kenadi inside of them. And so I’m just really proud that the community has enveloped us and come alongside us to make that a dream come true for other kids.”
For Kenadi’s family, it’s a joy to see her legacy live on.
“She just had unique and different qualities. I saw more bravery and determination and love out of a child that never spoke a single word … it’s highly motivating to just love life and live it up to the best of your ability, every day no matter what obstacles you may face. You can learn that from a 5 1/2-year-old little girl — that’s pretty amazing.”
The ultimate goal for the foundation is to have a Kenadi Jean Playground Destination, an all inclusive playground in Spearfish. They will have a special announcement about that goal on Saturday, June 22 at the Kenadi’s Karnival and Silent Auction Fundraiser.