Kavalyn Kelley throws her hands up in laughter

Kavalyn Kelley

Kavi Kelley was a happy baby, even if she didn’t like bedtime.

She had cake and doughnuts for breakfast on her first birthday. Her older brother absolutely adored her, and so did the rest of the Kelley family. And while she was learning to walk, her mother recalled, family time was “crazy and hectic.”

Kavalyn Faye Irene Kelley was born April 30, 2014. She died a little more than a year later, on May 14, 2015, of sudden unexplained death in childhood, or SUDC. Kavi would have started kindergarten at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary School this coming fall.

Her family is collecting donations for the school in her memory, among other kindness campaigns. The family decided to create acts of kindness and the fundraiser to remember their daughter, even if she was only with them for a short time.

“She was here, and we had her for a year, so we don’t want people to just” — Tedra Kelley, Kavi’s mother, paused — “forget that she was here.”

The family wanted to perform an act of kindness for the school their daughter would have attended and where their son is a third-grader.

Kavalyn Kelley throws her head back in laughter while eating

Kavi Kelley laughs at the camera. She died in 2015 of sudden unexplained childhood death syndrome.

Kavi’s father, Chad Kelley, and Tedra emailed Alpha Hart administrators to find out what the teachers need in terms of supplies. The teachers told them that school supplies were covered but that the kindergarten classrooms needed clothes for students who may have accidents while at school.

The family is asking the public to join it in donating the following:

  • Clothing, especially for older students in fourth and fifth grades.
  • New packages of underwear for boys and girls, especially sizes 6-8.
  • Stretchy leggings or sweatpants for boys and girls, especially sizes 6-8.
  • Books, especially for the kindergarten classrooms.
  • Outdoor activities, such as sidewalk chalk, bubble solution, etc.

Donations may be dropped off at Sound Performance, 1310 Indiana Ave. While you’re there, stop and see Kavi’s tree.

Chad also started a Facebook fundraiser, where gifts of money will be used to buy additional clothing items for the school. Chad said if enough clothing donations are given, the Kelley family may use the money to buy something bigger for the school.

Kavalyn Kelley kindness card

Kavalyn Kelley

The fundraiser was created Monday and will last through May 18. As of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 54 people had given a total of $1,535. Tedra said the fundraiser has already grown a lot bigger than the family thought it would.

For the two weeks after Kavi’s birthday each year, the family also orchestrates a pay-it-forward campaign. Family members perform an act of kindness and pass on a card with Kavi’s picture and a prompt to continue the acts of kindness. The family runs a Facebook page for Kavi and uses the hashtag “#KindnessForKavi.”

Instructions listed on the back of Kavalyn Kelley kindness card

Kavalyn Kelley

“You never know what kind of day people are having, and doing something nice can change a lot,” Chad said.

His daughter is certainly still with the family and those around it, he said. Chad, Tedra and their three other children wear wristbands with Kavi’s full name written between a heart and tiny footprints on the outside and her dates of birth and death on the inside. Her photos hang on the walls of their home. New family portraits are taken with one of them holding a picture of Kavi.

“She made a big impact for only being here for a year and even on people that she never met,” Chad said, “and still does.”

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

  • Advanced public life reporter, spring 2019 Studying print and digital Journalism and Political Science You can reach me at laurenkbishop@mail.missouri.edu or in the newsroom at 573-882-5700.

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