The press release went out this week announcing that Whaley Children’s Center is receiving a $100,000 donation from the Kristy Lynn Berkelbaugh Memorial Fund. The money will help the center, which provides residential child care services to children, age 5-17. These are those children  who have suffered chronic and profound abuse and neglect. Whaley uses these assets to care for and provide for the children in their care. And as the story was shared I myself had a full heart and smile, because Kristy Lynn was my sister.

At first I wasn't completely sure I wanted to share the story and the connection to the announcement, but I thought that knowing "why"  would make more sense to "how" this came to be.  My sister Kristy Lynn was adopted as a baby by my parents Fred and Diana Berkelbaugh  through Catholic Social Services in our hometown of Pittsburgh. For me becoming a big sister was everything. Even now I can remember going with my parents to meet my new sister and bringing her home.

My father, Kristy Lynn and me
My father, Kristy Lynn and me

We relocated to Michigan about a year later and life was as they say "perfect'. Unfortunately, as many of us know, life can change for reasons we just can't understand. One August day just before Kristy's 4th birthday the unthinkable happened. My sister was stuck by  a car while sitting on the curb near a driveway. The female driver had been drinking and even at the slowest speeds in  reverse her impairment lead to tragedy.

As a mother myself I can't begin to fathom losing a child. The pain, the anguish, the horrific reality that parents now had face was like nothing they could prepare for. When I think back now it seems a blur except for the sadness. The sadness is forever.

Shortly after many had asked how they could help, what they could do, and could they donate to a fund of some kind in my sisters memory. It was suggested that a memorial fund be created through Catholic Social Services of Wayne County ( now Community Social Services). My parents agreed with the stipulation that it would be only used for children.

Fast forward 45+ years til now and her memory lives on. Over the years the fund became the largest private fund in CSS. A few years ago they created an award, the Kristy Lynn Berkelbaugh Child Advocacy Award that I have had the honor of presenting to those individuals who truly put children first.The award is something we hope to continue with Whaley. Everything the fund has done from music lessons, sending children with disabilities to camp, providing specialty surgeries, to even caring for babies born with HIV has been such a heartwarming part of my family's lives. Still, I felt that something so special belonged somewhere very special. The fund needed to be with Whaley.

My family and I started the process a few months ago to move the fund and its resources to the Whaley Children's Center. The beauty of my job is that I have the honor of working within the community with so many amazing organizations that make a difference in our area. I knew this is where the foundation could make an impact in the lives of children in need. The staff of Whaley is exceptional and so incredibly loving. It's a perfect fit.

 “The donation will have a huge impact on our kids’ lives,” says Mindy Williams, President/CEO of WCC in a statement,  “It is important for us to make the Center feel like home for our children. The one way we do that is by giving the opportunity for the kids to have a lot of fun experiences, to simply help them to be kids. With the generous donation from the Kristy Lynn Berkelbaugh Memorial Fund we will be able to give these kids so many positive memories.”

So now the fund is "home". I say this  because to myself and my beautiful mother Diana, who passed away just 2 years ago, this has always been our home. Children were so important to my mom and I am know... she is smiling down along with my sister knowing they can still touch the lives of children and make a difference  even from above.

Kristy Lynn Berkelbaugh


Please consider donating to Whaley Children's Center.

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