NAPPANEE — Kelsey Mikel lost her life in an automobile accident on Aug. 20, 2004.
The former NorthWood High School student-athlete’s memory lives on in the hearts of her family and friends, and thanks to her decision to be an organ donor, she has made an even bigger impact.
To help through the grief and the healing process for father Mark, mother Kathy and sisters Emily, Mattie and McKenna while also helping the Wa-Nee community, the non-profit Kelsey Mikel Memorial Foundation was established.
The foundation annually awards a pair of scholarships to NorthWood students. One goes to a yearbook staff senior — Kelsey was a yearbook editor at the time of her death. The other is the Dreams Come True Scholarship, named in honor of Kelsey’s favorite movie, “The Wizard of Oz,” and any NorthWood senior may apply for it.
To raise funds for the scholarships and so the foundation may help the school in other ways, a road run was established the same year that Kelsey died.
The ninth annual I’m Thankful Four Scholarship Run is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving (Thursday, Nov. 22) at NorthWood High School.
The race has grown from 328 in 2004 to an all-time high of 675 in 2010. The 2011 event brought out 645 runners and walkers.
“Our race has become a family tradition,” says Mark Mikel. “They come and spend their Thanksgiving morning with us. More than an athletic event, it’s become a community event.”
Racers who beat the designated “turkey” of their gender will receive a prize.
Mark Mikel, who is coming up on five years as a clinical supervisor for residential services at Bashor Children’s Home in Goshen, and has worked in counseling in various settings since graduating from Fort Wayne Bible College in 1982.
Very young at the time of their sister’s passing, Mikel worried about his two younger daughters as they dealt with the passing of Kelsey.
“I know how trauma affects kids,” says Mikel. “They are recovering and healing well through the process.”
Emily is currently an assistant band director at Warsaw High School and a member of the Lake City Roller Dolls roller derby team. Mattie is on an academic scholarship in her sophomore year at Indiana University. McKenna is a sophomore and volleyball player and track athlete at NorthWood, where their father has long been involved with the track and cross country programs.
A program that has become near and dear to Mark Mikel is organ donation.
He is a regular speaker for Indiana Organ Procurement Organization Inc. and has attended the National Transplant Games with his family.
The Mikels have formed a strong bond with the Babcock family of Greenwood since Audrey Babcock — then 2 1/2 and experiencing many disabilities — received Kelsey’s left kidney.
Audrey continues to make progress thanks to that organ donation.
“I can’t tell you how appreciative those parents are when we’re with them,” says Mikel.
Online registration for I’m Thankful Four IX is available at thankfulfour.eventbrite.com. Cost for the 4-mile run/walk and 2-mile run/walk is $15 by Thursday and $20 by Nov. 21.
For more information call 354-1072 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.