During her short time before passing, Kenadi taught her family more lessons of love, of life, and of compassion than could be imagined. Now, three years later, the foundation made in her name is spreading that kindness and graciousness to others.
“As we grieve our enormous loss, we take comfort in creating this foundation to carry on with her amazing spirit,” Kenadi’s mom Kelly Weis-Schultz shares. “We will spend the rest of our lives trying to create a better world for other special needs children and their families.”
The Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation was established in 2014 and holds the vision of creating a world of acceptance, love, and success for children of all abilities and their families. And although the goal is large, step-by-step, the Weis family is making connections and taking strides in the process.
“We are changing the way people think about someone who has special needs,” Tessa Braddy, Kenadi’s Auntie Tess, expresses. “It’s through the small things that we are doing – educating and bringing people together – that is making an impact; because over time, we want people to see the person, not their differences.”
The vision starts with a playground destination that will promote inclusive play in multisensory environments, allowing children of all abilities to learn, explore, imagine, and laugh side-by-side.
“The playground is one of the first places that kids start learning about friendships and love and interacting together,” Lori Deibert, Kenadi’s Grandma Jean, says. “That’s the philosophy; it’s a place where people can come together and have fun.”
In addition to a playground destination equipped with a children’s library, water pad, shade areas, play equipment and more that will make an impact on the community of Spearfish, the Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation is giving back now.
Each year the foundation holds a Basketball Night at one of the Black Hills State University Yellow Jacket home games. Fans, friends and family gather sporting their hot pink attire and enjoy the game in addition to entertainment, raffles, silent auctions and more. With the money raised, the foundation then gives the proceeds to one graduating senior in the Special Education program as part of their Memorial Scholarship.
“Part of our vision is to assist families with special needs, but it’s grown out of the box to how can we help these kids when they aren’t with their families,” Tessa says. “Having a rockin’ teacher is a part of that; someone that is going to love them like family is huge.”
The list of assistance the foundation provides keeps growing through pairing families with special needs children to respite care and Kenadi’s Closet – an opportunity for families to test equipment before making the costly investment on their own.
The connections that The Kenadi Jean Weis Foundation is making – from educating the public on inclusive play and assisting students financially to matching caretakers and families – is the premise of the family’s roots; love and acceptance for those who are different from each other.
“When we bring people together for a common goal of embracing our differences and celebrating our unique abilities and strengths, it brings us closer together. It doesn’t isolate us; it connects us,” Tessa explains.
“We’re all in this together,” Lori expresses as she looks back on the work the foundation is doing. “It takes a village,” she says. “And we love our village!” Tessa exclaims.
Kenadi Jean Weis is making an impact in the Black Hills further than she could have ever imagined. The forever-five-year-old angel has left a legacy and philosophy that is being carried out by her family far beyond what any would believe possible.
By Jenna Carda
For more information on the foundation, events or how to get involved, head to teamkenadi.com.
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