by Susan O’Neill
ELBURN—Two young friends of Caitlyn Phillips have found a way to keep the memory of their friend alive, while offering some financial assistance to her family.
Elburn teenagers Katie Baird and Cierra Kuipers were devastated when their good friend, 13-year-old Caity Phillips, died last April while roller skating in her neighborhood.
Kuipers had been friends with Phillips since kindergarten. The two attended Kaneland John Stewart Elementary School, and were in the Elburn Brownie Troop together.
Phillips was such a frequent visitor to Baird’s house on the weekends, she had her own special pillow and blankets. The two enjoyed all kinds of activities together, including making a video to put on YouTube.
At Phillips’ memorial service, Kuipers and Baird heard the pastor’s words as he spoke about their friend. He said that, even though she was petite in stature, she was strong—both in her faith and in her personality. He encouraged everyone to live every day “Caity strong” to keep her memory alive.
The girls decided to have bracelets made that said “Caity Strong” on them, and to raise money for Phillips’ family by selling them to people in the community.
The girls enlisted the help of Alice’s Restaurant and Dr. Krauspe’s dental office, and also sold the bracelets at school. They ended up selling 200 bracelets and raising more than $1,000. Even though the girls asked for $3 a bracelet, people often gave much more.
“I was shocked at how many people donated money,” said Deb Baird, who is Katie’s mother. “A lot of them didn’t even take the bracelet; they just wanted to help.”
The girls met Caity’s mom Crystal Phillips at the Baird’s house to give her the check for the money they raised. They all reminisced about Caity and what a wonderful friend she was.
“She was always bubbly, and she was always able to make you feel better,” Kuipers said.
“She was always nice to everyone,” Katie said. “She was like an angel from Heaven.”
Crystal told the girls that she would like to take part of the money and start a tradition of adopting a family with a teenaged girl for Christmas. Crystal said she would like Katie and Cierra to come to the store with her to help her pick out some presents for the girl.
Katie said that Caity would love that idea.
“Caity would say, ‘Let’s do it,’” Katie said.
Kuipers said she would like to say a thank you to all the people who bought a bracelet or donated money for Caity’s family. It has turned out to be a great way to keep Caity in their hearts.
Katie said that her friend is in her prayers every night.
“I know that she is listening, and that she’s near me,” Katie said.