Remembering Kierstin Eaddy

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A group of freshmen Girl Scouts all stand by the pool at a summer birthday party. The blue water shimmers beneath them on the hot Saturday in July. The girls laugh and try to push each other in the pool, seemingly running in place to keep their feet off the hot concrete.

They jump in together. They play pool games and launch water balloons at each other for hours. Later the girls eat red velvet cupcakes and open presents. As the evening approaches, they lay together in the living room. Blankets are thrown haphazardly around them, all eyes glued to Burlesque playing on the TV screen. Phones are stashed away as they enjoy time together. As they leave, they all exchange hugs.

What the girls didn’t know was that this was the last time they would ever hug Kierstin Eaddy.

The next day, July 20, Kierstin headed out with her family to Texas Motor Speedway to compete in a go-kart race at a Sports Car Club of America automotive event. She raced almost every Sunday, and this seemed like just another competition. But during the race, she lost control of her go kart and crashed into a low cable barrier. Her helmet flew off and she sustained severe head injuries. Kierstin was airlifted to Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth where she passed away shortly after.

***

Freshman Camryn Rogers was sitting at her desk in class, trying to focus on her work. Next to her, kids were talking loudly.

“I’d rather die than do that,” one of them said.

Her mind immediately goes to the death of Kierstin. After all, she was her best friend.

“That really gets on my nerves,” Camryn said. “That’s not funny. Whenever people make fun of death it’s the first thing that comes to mind.”

Freshman Nikki Johnson, another one of Kierstin’s friends, said she feels the same way. She finds herself thinking about Kierstin a lot, too.

“Someone will say something, and I’ll think, ‘Oh, Kierstin would’ve said that or she would’ve laughed at that,’” Nikki said. “It just brings up a memory.”

Since kindergarten, both Camryn and Nikki had been in the same Girl Scout troop with Kierstin. The troop progressed through the years, with the girls earning patches and transitioning from Daisies to Brownies to Juniors and finally to Cadettes together.

I miss how happy she was. She made everyone happy around her. ”

— Nikki Johnson, 9

Now, as they transition into high school, the troop members face not only the beginning of their journeys to adulthood. They do so without one of their closest friends.

“It’s different now,” Camryn said. “It’s like one less person and it’s not as fun.”

Although it’s been difficult for the girls to cope with the loss of their friend, they try to remember the good times they had with Kierstin.

Something Camryn remembers most is a sunny afternoon in third grade when the girls were outside on a Girl Scout camping trip.

“Scorpion!” one of the scouts yelled.

Immediately Kierstin panicked and started running away. She wasn’t watching where she was going and was so focused on getting away from the bug that she ran into a set of stairs. All of the girls started laughing as they escaped from the small pest.
Later, the girls were having some down time at the campsite. Kierstin got the other girls to pretend to be horses with her. She’d plow the dirt with her shoe and whinny like a horse does when it’s excited. The girls galloped around outside. Their make-believe horse-world was their new reality.

“I miss how happy she was,” Nikki said. “She made everyone happy around her.”

Aside from all the good times she had with her friends and family, Kierstin’s legacy revolves around how much she loved to help people, despite her own struggles.

***

The smell of hay and dust fills the air. Horses munch on oats, tails swishing back and forth. Kierstin stands in the barn. But she’s not riding horses today. Instead, she’s helping kids who are unable to ride by themselves at Spirit Horse, a therapeutic riding center that counsels people with learning or physical disabilities.

Kierstin first got involved with the program when she was 12. She was trying to earn her Silver Award for Girl Scouts, and part of that was volunteering at Spirit Horse. But according to her father, Todd Eaddy, after just one day there she was hooked. She would help clean and care for the horses at the barn and she developed relationships very quickly with the people in the program. Soon she became a sidewalker, someone who walks alongside riders who have trouble sitting up on the horse.

“One of the things that Kierstin learned while volunteering was that she got more back out of her volunteering in many cases than the work that she did,” Todd said. “It was gratifying to see the kids but when you came home you realized how much of an impact those kids and those families had on you.”

Some of the people she had an impact on were the students from her school. During seventh grade, Kierstin transferred from Downing Middle School to the Shelton School in Dallas because of her dyslexia. Shelton helps kids with learning differences by teaching in ways that are unique to their students’ learning styles. Todd said Shelton was one of the places that had a positive effect on his daughter and fostered her love of giving back.

You just have to smile and just continue on because [Kierstin] wouldn’t want us to stop everything we were doing.”

— Nikki Johnson, 9

“If you visit, you’d have to agree with her once you met some of the people there,” Todd said. “It really is a life changing experience.”

If Kierstin’s father could describe her in a few words, he said she was someone who was always a friend to others.
“It was unique to find a young person who smiled virtually all the time. Life was an adventure,” Todd said. “Ironically, if you were to read most of the papers where people wrote something about her, they simply wrote she was an angel. She was one of those people that we all aspire to be.”

For the girls in her troop, they all remember her as selfless.

“If someone wanted something their way, even if it didn’t work for her, she would switch with them,” Camryn said. “She was really caring and she would put other people before her.”

Although losing a friend has been hard, Camryn said it’s made her realize to never take friendships for granted. She said that every time the girls depart from a meeting or a get-together, they always hug each other, no matter what. Through Kierstin, Nikki has also learned to spend more time with the people she loves.

“You just have to smile and just continue on because [Kierstin] wouldn’t want us to stop everything we were doing,” Nikki said.