It’s an unimaginable thing, the kind of tragedy that leaves a hole in the middle of a community.
When the Oswego School District community heard that 4-year-old Kylie Arnold of Montgomery had succumbed to brain cancer and pneumonia on Feb. 26, there was sadness, and there was shock. But then, there was action.
Both Brokaw Early Learning Center in Oswego, where Kylie Arnold attended, and , home to her brother Devin, launched their own fundraising efforts to help the Arnold family. And those efforts will culminate on Wednesday with a Culver’s day in Oswego dedicated to the Arnolds.
Long Beach’s assistant principal, Dawn Marmo, said she got the call about Kylie’s death on Sunday, and on Monday started talking with the school’s Character Counts! committee, its PAWS booster club, and its Home and School group to pull together fundraiser ideas.
Marmo said the students in Devin Arnold’s third grade class chose the three in-house fundraisers at Long Beach. Last Wednesday, teachers and students each paid $1 to wear pajamas during the school day, and Marmo said they collected more than $700, between that and straight donations.
On Friday, teachers and students similarly paid $1 to wear a “crazy hat” to school, and everywhere you looked at Long Beach during that school day, there were big, colorful hats. (See the photos attached to this story.) And today, students and teachers can pay $1 to enjoy an ice cream treat after lunch.
Marmo explained that today’s ice cream fundraiser was originally intended to raise money for a Character Counts! assembly in May, but once students heard about Kylie, they asked for the money to go to the Arnolds.
Marmo said both Principal Kevin Lipke and the school’s social worker, Brenda Gullickson, talked to students about what had happened, and help them with questions they may have. Devin’s classmates, she said, will likely have more questions when he returns to school – his family kept him home last week – and she said the staff is as prepared as can be for those queries.
The Arnolds, she said, moved to Montgomery from Yorkville last year, and transferred to Oswego schools.
“They’re a fantastic family,” she said.
Principal Jeff Modaff of Brokaw Early Learning Center said the school was already in the midst of a fundraiser to help the Arnolds with medical expenses when Kylie died. Once they heard, his staff put up posters seeking donations, and raised $250 to help with funeral expenses.
Modaff said that only Kylie’s immediate classmates were told that she had died—parents were also informed with a letter, he said—and those students made signs and posters for the visitation on Thursday, “to show their love for her,” he said.
The Brokaw faculty, he said, have come together like a family. They have reached out to the Arnolds, and, with Long Beach staff, offered to help bring them meals. And the Brokaw staff held a moment of silence in Kylie’s honor last week.
“It’s a tremendous loss, and we will miss her,” Modaff said.
Both schools have teamed up for Wednesday’s Culver’s benefit in Oswego. From the moment the doors open at 10:30 a.m. to the moment they close at 10 p.m., will donate 10 percent of all the money they take in to the Arnold family.
Wednesday was already scheduled as Long Beach Night at Culver’s, Marmo said, with proceeds ordinarily going to the Home and School group. But that group decided to donate everything to the Arnolds.
Marmo said Kylie’s death made her realize how blessed she is to have her own young children, and said she could not imagine what the Arnold family is going through.
“It hit close to home,” she said.
Culver’s Day begins at 10:30 a.m. at Culver’s, at 2781 Rt. 34 in Oswego. If you would like to donate directly to the Arnold family, you can send checks to Earthmover Credit Union, 1008 N. Bridge St., Yorkville, IL 60560. Make checks payable to Kylie Arnold.
An obituary for Kylie Arnold can be found here.