MOORE, Okla. (KFOR) – Every Wednesday night for more than a dozen years, Oklahoma’s KFOR News has brought you heartwarming stories about deserving Oklahomans as part of our ‘Pay It 4Ward’ series.
But, for the first time, along with First Fidelity Bank, we’re presenting an award in memory of a very special young woman who passed away last month.
Three years ago, News 4 introduced you to Kaelyn Thompson, whose lungs were riddled with cystic fibrosis from birth, leading to two double lung transplants, the last of which was in 2016.
“It has given me almost five years extra with my family and friends, counting both transplants,” Kaelyn told our cameras in 2018. In fact, her transplants ended up giving her eight extra years of life, until early September.
Kaelyn was a champion at advocating for organ donation, and also at volunteering, specifically, with the Sparrow Project, a nonprofit group in Moore for young adults with intellectual disabilities, called the “Sparrows.”
Allison Richey started the Sparrow Project five years ago after her daughter, Casey, graduated from high school.
“They go from being very, very busy to nothing,” Allison said. “We do fitness once a month with a great fitness instructor, we have music classes twice a month, arts and crafts.”
Arts and crafts were Kaelyn’s favorite event to coordinate. For her selfless volunteering, Allison nominated Kaelyn for our first-ever Pay It 4Ward in memoriam, from First Fidelity Bank’s Ana Guerrero.
“Because of her acts of kindness, on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, we are beyond excited to present you with $400 to pay it forward, in memory of Kaelyn,” Ana said. “Thank you so very much, we appreciate it,” Allison replied.
Allison had asked Kaelyn’s parents to attend the latest Sparrow Project event in Kaelyn’s honor. Chris and Kim Thompson were shocked to receive the gift from Allison, as the Sparrows applauded.
“Because Kaelyn meant so much to so many, we want you guys to know, we love you, we love her, and she’ll live on through Sparrow with her craft ideas, if nothing else. You guys are the most generous people I’ve ever come across, so we want to do something for you. On behalf of First Fidelity, News Channel 4, and the Sparrow Project, we want to give you $400,” Allison said, handing over the money.
From the Thompsons’ response, it’s easy to see where Kaelyn learned her generosity.
Chris said, “Should we return it?” Kim agreed, “Yes, we want you guys to keep it for the project. No, you guys keep it for the Sparrows, really. No, you keep it for them.”
“It was hard for the last eight-and-a-half years; I was her full-time caregiver,” Chris said, fighting back tears. Kim said, “She was a daddy’s girl, and he’s a retired firefighter for Oklahoma City, and he was her full-time caregiver. Any IVs she needed at home, or any meds, that was his role.”
“Yeah, we lost our daughter and my best friend,” Kaelyn’s brokenhearted father said. His wife comforted Chris, saying, “It’s okay, she’s looking down on us forever. She loved these kids, she did. She loved volunteering and she wanted to be a teacher for kids with special needs. She passed away on September the 7, and five days later she would have been 30. She really just wanted to make it to 30 and she was close; we celebrated her 30th birthday for her anyhow,” Kim said.
A large bouquet in the shape of the number 30 was on stage for Kaelyn’s funeral, which was really more of a party, just as Kaelyn had requested. In lieu of flowers, donations were sent to the Sparrow Project.
And the Sparrows drew pictures for her service – for the volunteer who now has a pair of wings herself.
“You raised a great girl,” Allison said, hugging Kim. “She was good, she was good,” Kim said.
If you would like more information about the Sparrow Project or to volunteer, as Kaelyn did, click here for more information.
Nominate someone for Pay it 4Ward! Fill out this form with as much detail as possible.
Pay it 4Ward is sponsored by First Fidelity Bank.