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Scholarship Program to Celebrate & Remember Kass’s Achievements

TKhires

We are pleased to announce the creation of the Kathleen Paternostro Morgan Memorial Scholarship Program!  During 2013, we will recognize two deserving graduates from Hughesville High School who exemplify Kass’s spirit and dedication to sports, academics, and her community.  With your help, we plan to expand this program in the future.

Please read below for the 2013 scholarship guidelines and criteria.

Kass loved life!  She held many fond memories of her time spent in school close in her heart.  So we are very pleased to be able to provide financial support to aspiring student athletes in this small way.

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Purpose: To provide annual scholarships to deserving high school seniors who demonstrate Kathleen’s esteemed qualities and work ethic, including dedication to academics, sports, and the community in which they live.

Scholarship Amount:   $300.00 (2 awards to be presented)

Frequency:  Presented annually during graduation ceremonies at Hughesville High School.

Criteria: 

  • Applicants must be a member of the graduating class.
  • Applicants must have participated in sports, with preference given to basketball and tennis, during their senior year.
  • Applicants must be attending college upon graduation.
  • Applicants must complete the scholarship application and write a 500-word essay.

 Process:

  • Applications are available from Hughesville High School officials, and must be submitted by 15 May.
  • Applications may be submitted via direct mail to:  Team Kass Foundation, PO Box 1862, Williamsport, PA  17703.
  • Two members of Kathleen’s family may elect to meet briefly with the nominees to determine the final scholarship recipient(s).

 About Kathleen:   Kathleen Paternostro Morgan was a 1990 graduate of Hughesville High School.  A standout athlete, she played the number one singles position in girls tennis and was a starting member of the 1990 District IV championship girls basketball team.  In addition to her love for sports, Kathleen had a creative spirit and was an accomplished artist.  She graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Technology in 1992 with a degree in Food & Hospitality Management and worked within the hospitality industry for 20 years before her journey to Heaven in July 2012 at the young age of 40.  She was the proud mother of Josephine, whom she loved with all of her heart.

To learn more about Kathleen, please visit our website at http://teamkass.com.

Summer 2011 128

The Love of Friends, Part I – “Fight”

As each day passes, I become more and more strengthened in my resolve to just keep going.  As difficult as it seems at times, this is truly the only choice we have.  This winter has been particularly difficult.  You see last winter; we were still in the fight.  We were traveling, telling stories, getting treatment, spending time, talking, listening, laughing and loving.  We were working toward a positive outcome.  We never lost focus.  We stayed in the moment as much as we could.  We just kept going.

As I watch the snow fall this afternoon, I am reminded that the journeys we go through in life are often unexpected and many times lead us to this place we never could have anticipated.  In our case, we are left in a swirl of uncertainty, compounded by a sadness that floats around our hearts and permeates the motions of our everyday life.  We may not understand why God allows things to happen the way they do, or how the course of our life may be altered as a result, so the best that we can do is appreciate that everything has a reason – some greater purpose – that one day will be revealed to us when the time is right.

One thing is for certain, though.  If we are lucky to have a loving family to provide a steady hand to guide us through the hard times, we are among the fortunate ones. And, we should consider ourselves blessed if we have true friends who will stop at nothing to help to see us through.  Luckily for me, I have both.

Through the next several writings, I will relate stories about friendship that need to be shared as a part of Kass’s story.  I begin this week back in 2010 with a story about my amazing friend, Kate:

katekrista
CFOT, July 2011

On a whim back in July 2010, while living in Alexandria , VA, I walked into CrossFit Old Town to check out this new (to me) fitness regimen that a friend had told me about.  I knew no one, but I was determined to give it a try.  From the beginning, I was hooked.  But, it wasn’t just the exercise and fitness that I loved; it was the experiences that I had and the friendships that I made along the way that I will always remember.  What I found inside of this place was: encouragement, support, hard work, commitment, willpower, determination, dedication, strength, athleticism, and the overwhelming surroundings of friendship.  On that same day that I started CrossFit, my life became forever intertwined with another new CrossFitter, my friend Kate.  Kate and I were workout partners.  Kate and I pushed each other.  Kate and I worked out hard together.  Kate and I supported each other’s successes.  And, over time, Kate and I became friends.

Not the acquaintance type of friend but, the forever friend.  The kind of person who comes into your life for a reason.  The kind of friend who is genuine to the core, and will always be there for you no matter what.  The kind of friend that always has your back.  The kind of friend who believes in you.  The kind of friend who helps to make you a better person.  The kind of friend who understands and appreciates you for who you are, where you are.  The kind of friend that I could not have realized that I so desperately needed at the time.

kristakateWe only worked out together for a year.  But, a year was more than enough time for us to share our personal journey and to reflect on the hopes and dreams we both had for our own lives.  So Kate understood what it meant on that day in July 2011 as we ran when I told her about Kass.  I cried.  She cried. Even though our hope was still surging at the time, she understood what this meant to me.  She had heard enough stories about my life to know that Kass was my very best friend.  She understood and supported what I needed to do.  After we ran, we stood there on that sidewalk and she said, “She is going to fight this thing.  You are going to help her.  You are strong, Krista, so I know that Kass is strong, too.  You can do this.” I will never forget that day.  And, shortly thereafter off I went to join my family to fight alongside of Kass.

That August, Kate and I ran together in my first Team LIVESTRONG event in Philly.  It was a beautiful day.  The emotions were almost too much, but we did it.  We crossed that finish line together, just as I knew we would.

women's run
National Race to End Women’s Cancer, 2011

In November 2011, I came back to join with 8 other ladies from CFOT to run in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer in Washington, DC.  This 8K run was an amazing experience, organized by Kate.  Every member of our team ran with Kass’s picture on their back….she was our inspiration!  And, it was the friendships that I had made from participating in CrossFit that kept me going that day.  To this day, I still feel connected to all of those I knew from that 6:00 a.m. class, even though I never see them and our time together seems like a lifetime ago.

Over the past several months, I have shared many personal stories of Kass’s determination, courage, strength, positive attitude, and that bright light that was always shining toward others who surrounded her during her fight.  Kass radiated love.  Below, I invite you to read about that light as seen by my friend Kate, who wrote this just a few days after Kass went to Heaven, in July 2012:

What do you do when what you give just isn’t enough? When the fight is just too hard? How do you say good-bye when it just is not supposed to happen this way?

A year ago I was running down the streets of old town with Krista when she shared with me that her sister had been diagnosed with cancer. Although shocked, I felt that for sure this vibrant 39 year-old mother would fight and beat this goliath that she was facing. As the months went by, the treatment began and I watched my friend Krista stand by her sister through everything.

Krista decided that she wanted to do a run in Philly, for LIVESTRONG that August, and while having dinner at Fireflies last July, before she moved back home to be with her sister, I said, count me in! So we ran in August. Although the drive involved a horrible storm, and a very late night arrival, Krista and I ran in Philly for Kass, and after the race I got to visit with Kass and their mom after the run, and we all sat in the sunlight and laughed at this horrible disease.

I came back from the run having been surrounded by, fight, I heard it and saw it everywhere, you can fight this, keep fighting, don’t give up, and to deal with the helplessness that I felt I wrote the song, “Fight” hoping that Kass could listen to it while she was going through treatment. That maybe this would help motivate her through the long fight ahead.

In November, a group of us from CrossFit OldTown, ran in the National Race to End Women’s Cancer, each wearing a shirt with a picture of Kass, running for her as she was not able to run but was continuing to fight. Krista and I ran together again, and we fought through every mile for Kass, we didn’t stop and we didn’t give up, together we ran.

Just a month ago I was able to bring a copy of “Fight” to Kass, and visit with her in the hospital, I was able to sit with Krista, her mom and Kass, and once again we laughed at this terrible disease. I hugged Kass as I left and said, “Just keep fighting!”

Kass did fight, she fought in the hospital, she fought at home, she fought through it all, and I watched in awe as her beautiful sister, Krista, cared, loved, listened, and laughed with her sister month after month.

On Monday our fight changed, Krista stood by her sister, and said her last good-bye. Now the fight is to keep moving forward, to keep Kass in our hearts, to fill each holiday with a new memory, to get through each day, sometimes just a minute at a time.

So what do you do when the fight seems like it’s over, you keep on moving, loving and laughing and trying to keep all of the beauty that was inside that person, that you felt and held and benefited from and share it with everyone that you can, and through it all recognizing that there is just this amazingly unfair crap that no one can explain or tell you why it is happening, that nothing anyone says will change the outcome, but know that through it all there will be people around you and that you will not do it alone. That when we are down and feel like we can’t get up, there are people there that will lift us to our feet, and in those moments we are reminded of that person that we lost, and although the space is never exactly filled it slowly, day by day, is changed.

Kass was a beautiful woman and my heart and love sits with her family over the next couple of days, I look forward to the small moments of laughter, love and family we will share on Saturday.

Pretty amazing.  Perhaps the lasting legacy of this story is that Kass inspired Kate to write a song, Fight, and the song will live on forever as a tribute to Kass’s spirit!  How awesome is that?  You see, while Kate is not working on her PhD or doing her job for the U.S. Department of Education, she headlines in her own band and she is remarkable. She still plays “Fight” during her shows.  She still tells Kass’s story before she sings.  So, I now invite you to check it out on iTunes and download a copy and think of Kass.  All proceeds will benefit the Team Kass Foundation.

Thank you, Kate, for your wonderful friendship.  You do so much for so many.  I cannot thank you enough for being there for me through this most difficult time of my life.  But most of all, I thank you for taking the time to visit with Kass, to tell her that she inspired you, and to share her inspiration through your music. I know that your last visit with her meant so much to her.  You left the hospital that day and she just smiled at the thought that she had inspired you to write a song!  And, she proudly displayed the framed cover artwork that you gave her in her home.  That moment that you created for her is forever imprinted on my heart.

Our family invited Kate to sing during Kass’s funeral mass.  There was no other choice but to have Kate sing.  And, she sang beautifully that day as the loveliest hymns filled the church:  Be Not Afraid, On Eagle’s Wings, How Great Thou Art.  I can barely type the words.  But it was her a cappella version of Amazing Grace that will forever fill my heart.  I already know that no matter how often we talk or how often we see each other, we are forever friends.

I close by writing that I still stand in awe of Kass.  She had never even met Kate before she was sick, yet Kate saw something special in her.  And, I have heard it from others who met Kass during this time:  there was something inspiring in Kass’s eyes, there was calmness, there was acceptance, and there was peace….a strong sense that no matter what, everything would be okay.  I miss her every day.

Summer 2011 128
Kass, 2010

Our Beliefs Are Our Foundation

Over the past several months, we have been sorting through old photographs, letters, cards, emails, videos…..really anything we can find that links us with Kass.  There have been so many amazing moments during this time that have forced us to pause, breathe, and smile.  Sometimes, we cry.  Most times, though, we simply laugh.  Kass was so very funny.  Some of the notes that she wrote over the years have helped to bring back our smiles and our laughter. We find that no matter what, there is always reason to believe, just as Kass always said, that everything will be okay.

Just yesterday we lived another one of these special moments.  Dad called me in the afternoon.  He said that he had recently taken an old computer into a local computer store to have any remaining files pulled from it.  After he picked up the files yesterday, he found a writing that Kass had written back in 2000 when my parent’s dog Josh had died.  Only five years old, he was struck by a car and killed near my parent’s home.  Like a lot of families, we grow very connected to our pets and find peace in remembering them after they are gone.  But, it is likely that no one, including Kass, had seen this tribute in many years.  Yet, reading it now, brought a sense of such overwhelming peace.  I share it with you below:

Josh

Reading it again now brings tears to my eyes.  I feel so overwhelmingly sure that Kass’s words then were and continued to be at the core of her own beliefs and values.  Our beliefs are our foundation, and as a family, we have been lucky that our foundation was filled with abundant love and the fundamental truth of God and Heaven.  You are home now Kass, run free.

The Hummingbird – The Nectar of Life

As last summer approached and her time on Earth was drawing to a loving and peaceful end, my sister Kass used to sit on her porch and watch the hummingbirds.  She would sit quietly with her eyes closed and listen to them buzz around all of the beautiful flowers that surrounded her on her porch. We spent many hours talking there and just listening.  She loved to watch the hummingbirds play.  She said to me before she died, “Please do me a favor. Always have a hummingbird feeder at your house.  No matter what.  When you watch them, you can think of me.  They have always been one of my favorite little birds.”

Two weeks before Kass died, I shared with her my plans to start a foundation in honor of her.  Like a thousand other moments that are emblazoned in my mind, I will never forget that conversation.  We were sitting on the deck of my parent’s cabin.  The day was June 23, 2012, only 9 days before God called her home.  I told her that I planned to call the foundation Team Kass, The Kathleen Paternostro Morgan Foundation and I showed her a simple mock up of the logo:

“Yes,” she said.  “I love it. I love the hummingbird, too.”  That day, she encouraged me to begin on this new journey.  I have been thinking about it for many months now, and I know that I am now ready.  As I begin on this new adventure….a permanent measure to honor a beautiful and graceful life gone too soon…. I wanted to make sure that I understood everything I could about the hummingbird.

It was so interesting for me to learn – although somehow I think I already knew – that the hummingbird is a symbol for peace, love and happiness:

Hummingbirds, called new world birds cause they are native to North America, Central and South America, are considered to be symbols of peace, love and happiness, moreover, ancient pagans held them sacred for their tireless energy and anxiety.   In Native American culture, a hummingbird symbolizes timeless joy and the Nectar of Life. It’s a symbol for accomplishing that which seems impossible and will teach you how to find the miracle of joyful living from your own life circumstances. They are really spectacular birds, and have a lot to teach a person about self discovery and healing.

-Source:  Animal-Speak: The Spiritual & Magical Powers of Creatures Great & Small

And just like that, the symbol of peace and love now also serves as our reminder to find the miracles of joyful living no matter what our circumstances.  Kass continues to teach us to love even after she is gone.  And, her legacy will continue through the love we show to one another.  If you think about it, what else really matters?

In the coming months, please watch for more information here about Team Kass.  I am sorting through our mission, vision, goals, etc.  I am putting it out there now so that someday when we are ready, we can invite you to be a part of this amazing journey.  There is so much that we can accomplish together with Kass as our inspiration.  In her memory, we will continue to drink in the nectar of life.

Dig the Cause Posters for Kass

What motivates this message?  I was not going to write about this event until after it was over, but today I changed my mind.  The deadline is looming for us to submit our In Memory Of cards for next week’s Dig the Cause event. When I collected the submissions from my family and collectively saw what they had created, I was inspired and saddened all at once.

This day next week is a big day. Not only is it LIVESTRONG Day around the globe, but next Tuesday, October 2 also marks the 3-month anniversary of Kass’s journey into Heaven.

3 months.  Exactly 92 days ago we said goodbye to our sweet baby sister and held her hand for the very last time.

These pictures tell the story of how Kass’s life has influenced the youngest of us, her nieces and nephews, who love her and miss her every day.  Please take a moment to see the inspiration and the love that Kass sprinkled over all of us during her 40 beautiful years on this Earth.  Never to be forgotten.  We love you, Kass.  We miss you every day.

By Tom’s Family, Nicholas, Age 13 & Maria, Age 7

By Katie, Age 12

By Abby, Age 8

By Abby, Age 8

By Jack, Age 5

 

Relay for Life – May 19, 2012

The luminaries for Mom and Kass….
Dad walking for his baby….

Another unbelievable experience, this one with just our family!  We gathered in May 2012 for the Williamsport Relay for Life event, supporting the American Cancer Society, where we camped under the stars for Kass.  We walked, we talked, and we loved.  This was also where we took the last picture we ever posed for as a family.  I will cherish it for all of time, but did not post it here.

Kass had just returned from the National Institutes of Health after another very long week.  But, she really wanted to attend this event.  So, she made the trip just in time for the survivor’s walk.  We took turns pushing her around that track.  What a wonderful day with our baby sister!

The kids walking for Kass…..

Pictures from Team LIVESTRONG Challenge Philly – August 19, 2012

At the starting line. Our jerseys say: In Loving Memory, Kathleen L. Morgan. Faith. Hope. Love. “Everything will be okay.”

What an incredible experience!  I am proud to have participated in the first-ever Team Kass event with two special friends….Casey Forbes and Rafael Matos.  I still cannot believe that we did this ride, but here are some pictures that provide the evidence.  It was a special day in honor of a beautiful soul and all of those who have gone before us, and for those who still continue to fight.  May God bless you all!