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Wednesday, 11 May 2011 14:08

Kaitlin’s Gift will live on in the hearts of many

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By Sherri Gallant
Southern Alberta Newspapers
A 17-year-old Lethbridge girl whose selflessness captured hearts and changed lives around the world, has died.

Kaitlin Boyda learned she had brain cancer just after her 16th birthday in 2009, and died in the wee hours of May 5. She made headlines when it was learned that rather than accept a gift from the Children’s Wish Foundation, Kaitlin wanted the money to benefit others who she felt needed it more.

The Children’s Wish Foundation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to fulfilling a wish for children who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness.

Kaitlin wanted the $9,600 earmarked for her by Children’s Wish to go to Compassion Canada, to provide clean water for communities in Uganda. Compassion had a goal to drill 21 water wells in 21 communities, at a cost of $9,600 for each well. Kaitlin was already familiar with Compassion, having previously donated a goat to a poor family overseas through the organization.

“An incredible young lady,” said Compassion Canada’s John Voort.

“I’ve never met anyone like her. I don’t think I will ever again, either. Just an amazing young lady that changed a lot of lives. Not just in Uganda, but right here in Lethbridge, and across Canada, too. She changed my life. We’ll never know how many people she influenced, how many people have been changed by her attitude, by her unselfishness and by her strong, strong faith in God.

“That is the number-one story here, how strong was her faith and how unselfish she was. She could have had a trip to New Zealand or she could have had a horse. She said ‘no, this doesn’t feel right — I want to help people who need it.’”

When others heard of Kaitlin’s generosity, they were inspired by her compassion and wanted to donate as well. People began to host barbecues, hold car washes and conduct bottle drives. The Ugandan water project now had a name — Kaitlin’s Wish — and within seven weeks the entire $200,000 was raised to drill 21 water wells. Associated Engineering raised $10,000 at a weekend barbecue in an hour and a half, and Immanuel Christian students raised $10,000 during a bottle drive.

“It just blows you away,” said Voort. “There were people who literally wrote cheques for $9,600 so they could pay for an entire well. It was just amazing.”

Kaitlin’s sister Melanie Fersovitch said her sister’s strong faith was one of her most recognized characteristics.

“She lived for Christ right until the end,” she said. “The water project brought her so much joy. She was very pure in heart and she loved the fact that it happened. Kaitlin’s not defined by her cancer, so even if she hadn’t become sick, she would have loved doing the water project. It made her happy.”

Her sister loved to paint, she said, and enjoyed being outdoors gardening or camping. She loved being at Southern Alberta Bible Camp, both as a camper and a volunteer leader. And while she hadn’t spoken of career aspirations, she did say she looked forward to being a wife and mother one day.

Kaitlin’s parents Mel and Brenda have four children and Kaitlin was the baby. Melanie is the oldest followed by Olivia and Nate. With its mandate fulfilled, the Kaitlin’s Wish campaign is closed, but anyone motivated by Kaitlin can support other water projects Compassion has planned in communities including

Ethiopia and Ghana through a donation

to Kaitlin’s Legacy: KaitlinsLegacy.

Kaitlin passed her courses and graduated from Immanuel Christian High School this spring, but was not well enough to attend her convocation.

“Her high school had voted to move their graduation a month ahead in order that Kaitlin would be able to attend,” said Melanie. “That’s how much they loved her. She had amazing friends and they were always there for her. Her boyfriend Joel (Groenenboom) stuck by her through everything. They were best friends for the past three years and they were always together. He is family to us.”

For more information about Compassion’s work around the world, visit the Compassion website

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