‘Stuff the Bus’ supplies CNE students, honors Kinley
By Dick Maloney
She is there when they open a notebook, or file papers in a folder. She guides their hands as they write with pencils or markers. Her spirit makes the highlighters brighter, the glue sticks stronger.
Clermont Northeastern Elementary School students and staff miss Kinley Sexton, who died May 31 after being diagnosed in 2018 with DIPG - Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Giloma – a tumor in the brain stem. Kinley was in kindergarten, and continued to go to school throughout her illness and treatment. Their support of Kinley and her family was rewarded when Jeff Wyler Eastgate chose the school as a recipient for supplies donated through its “Stuff the Bus” program.
CNE Elementary Principal Tonya Schmidt said the campaign was a fitting tribute.
“She loved coming to school. She wanted to come to school every day,” Schmidt said. “It was just so, so inspiring to see how much that little girl loved school, and it was just so amazing, and her mom said, ‘This is her happy place. This where she wants to be.’”
Kinley’s family helped coordinate the program. Her father, Bryan Sexton, works for Jeff Wyler, and two of her brothers attend CNE Elementary.
“Seeing how happy everyone was to get all of the supplies and knowing we were able to give back to the community that has done so much for us,” Ashley Sexton said in an email.
Wyler employee Shannon Sebastian contacted Schmidt to inform her of the school’s selection and ask for a list of needed supplies.
“Things that teachers are always going to need, that kids are always going to need … pencils and highlighters and markers and crayons and folders and binders and just really the basics is really all that we were asking for,” Schmidt said. “Glue sticks, oh my gosh, we got a tub of glue sticks, which to some people might not be a big deal, but kids run through those things so fast, you know, kids like having their own supplies.”
The school promoted the event in the community, and then waited for the supplies.
“We were really excited because one of the biggest problems that we always have here when kids come in in the fall is they just don’t have all the supplies,” Schmidt said. “It’s great in the community that we do not have supply fees for anyone, which is nice, or any other thing, but that also means that we really depend on our families and our community to help make sure that kids have what they need.”
Supplies were delivered to the school in mid-August, with staff and others forming a “human chain,” as Schmidt described, to unload the van. They took the items to a room used for staff meetings, and organized them so students could get what they needed.
“People are just grabbing boxes of stuff and bringing them in. It was kind of a fun day … and now we actually have a reserve of supplies, which is something that we don’t usually have,” Schmidt said.
The school also received a check for $1,400, which it will use to buy and install friendship benches on the school’s playground that will be dedicated Kinley’s memory.
Schmidt said Kinley brought out the best in everyone at the school, and continues to do so.
“I mean honestly it was more of an inspiration and a blessing to us more than anything else … because how could you, if you had a cold, and you’re like ‘I don’t feel very good today’ and you go down and you see Kinley working hard at the table with her mom by her side and kids at her table too,” Schmidt said.
“As the administrator of the building, just proud of the staff, proud of everyone rallied around her, around the family, and that everyone did everything that they could to make it a positive experience for her every day. That’s our job really, to make school be the best place for kids, to have it be a positive experience for everyone, so even amidst the tragedy, I feel that our staff did just that, and that everyone went out of their way to support Kinley.”
Jeff Wyler Eastgate posted a video on its website about the Stuff the Bus collection in Kinley’s honor - https://youtu.be/n2_aDKK-chU.