Nakota Blake Kelly Remembrance Fund to Uplift Families and Children

August 13, 2021 / 5 mins read

Earlier this summer, Wabash County families and children were stricken with the tragic news surrounding the death of ten year-old Nakota Kelly. Stan and Kathy Leland, were two of these individuals deeply shocked and devastated by his loss. The Lelands had shared a close relationship with Nakota and his sister Jazmyn for ten years as Kids Hope mentors.

“Our relationship with Nakota and the Kelly family,” said Stan, “opened our eyes to the trials, frustrations, and problems that single mothers and their children face. It is easy to write a check to help meet their needs, but real life happens when we choose to get involved relationally. To do ‘life’ with someone is very rewarding but very challenging as well. It has made us more compassionate and understanding of the challenges many families face in our community. Being involved with Nakota was a blessing for us. He changed our lives, and we miss him deeply. We can’t wait to see him again in heaven.”

Searching for a way to remember Nakota and serve children like him, the Lelands sought guidance from the Community Foundation. “We chose the Community Foundation initially because we wanted to do a scholarship fund for Nakota,” said Stan. “We knew the CF would know the do’s and don’ts of setting up the scholarship fund. After meeting with Patty and her team, it was evident that we were at the right place. The Community Foundation team met with us several times and expanded our knowledge of all the needs and opportunities in Wabash County. The Foundation does an outstanding job of convening stakeholders to explore possibilities and get questions answered. With the Foundation’s guidance, our minds were opened to options other than scholarships that could help us create the best way to remember Nakota.”

In Nakota's memory, the Lelands have established the Nakota Blake Kelly Remembrance Fund at the Community Foundation to support Wabash County organizations that empower our county’s families and children, like Nakota. These organizations include the Access Youth Center, Kids Hope, Wabash County Little League, Blessings in a Backpack, and Babe of Wabash County.

In speaking about the fund, Stan said, “We have chosen to create this fund to remember Nakota and to support the people and organizations who serve children like Nakota with love, compassion and purpose. Through our experience with Nakota and his family, we recognize more fully the struggles that so many children and families in Wabash County face, and we also appreciate the loving and thoughtful care of many Wabash county programs which seek to remove barriers and lighten burdens for mothers and children. While we face challenges, Kathy and I feel called to champion resources to strengthen county services so that struggling children and families are not forgotten, but abundantly served.

We are empowered to serve children like Nakota.

In memory of Nakota, we invite you to donate to the Nakota Kelly Remembrance Fund. Now through December 31, 2020, all contributions received up to $20,000 will be matched $1 for $1 to build the Fund.

Contributions to the fund will support the following Wabash County organizations:

The Access Youth Center – The Access Youth Center (AYC) serves children and teens ages 8-18. AYC provides programming and resources, including afterschool and weekend activities, free snacks, homework assistance, Bible study, and guys and girls nights to build friendships and a network of support. Nakota's fund will support AYC's new program, Nakota’s Neighbors, an after-school program in partnership with Wabash Alliance Church and Meadowbrook Apartments where Nakota lived. In speaking about the program, Liz Hobbs, Executive Director of AYC says, “Part of our mission is to care for our neighbors – spiritually, academically, and relationally. With contributions from Nakota’s Fund, as well as our new partnerships with Meadowbrook and Wabash Alliance Church, we will look to empower, encourage, and enrich the lives of others, just as Nakota did for us.”

Kids Hope – Kids Hope is a nationwide mentoring organization that operates here in Wabash County through Bachelor Creek Church of Christ. Kids Hope mentors serve as positive role models to children identified by the public schools as at-risk. Contributions to Nakota’s Fund will help Kids Hope expand its program and engage more mentors, whose commitment and consistent presence in the lives of their mentees, demonstrates Christ’s love, encourages positive school engagement, and influences a hopeful outlook on life’s opportunities and a virtuous life. It was through Kids Hope that Stan and Kathy Leland developed an intimate relationship with Nakota.

Babe of Wabash County - Babe of Wabash County (Babe), a new organization in Wabash County, creates positive and healthy family cultures by providing education regarding parenting, instruction related to developmental needs, and materials and free resources related to baby and child care such a diapers, wipes, clothing, and equipment. Based on the model and success of the BABE Store in Whitley County, Babe will open in 2021 and begin to create a network of support and resources to embolden all mothers, including single mothers who parent alone and are often isolated through poverty and unemployment. Contributions to Nakota’s Fund will support operations of Babe at 1 North Miami Street, Wabash.

Blessings in a Backpack – Blessings in a Backpack provides food for at-risk children from preschool through sixth grade during the school year. The program strives to mitigate food insecurity by ensuring children do not go hungry on the weekends Contributions to Nakota’s Fund will support the operations of Blessings in a Backpack in Wabash County.

Wabash Little League - Nakota loved to play baseball. Like more than 550 Wabash County children ages 4-16 who participate in Wabash Little League, the experience taught Nakota to be a good teammate and practice exemplary sportsmanship. More importantly, Wabash Little League helps kids make friendships, find reward in hard work, and always strive to do their best. Contributions to Nakota’s Fund will support Wabash Little League in providing financial scholarships to children who cannot afford to join a team.

Gifts to the Nakota Kelly Remembrance Fund are tax deductible. Checks should be made payable to the Community Foundation with Nakota’s Fund in the memo line and mailed to the Community Foundation at 105 West Second Street, Suite 100 North Manchester, IN 46962. Donations can also be made on the Community Foundation's website.

“We are inspired by Stan and Kathy’s vision to serve children like Nakota in Wabash County,” says Melissa Ford, Development Associate at the Community Foundation. “Following unimaginable grief and devastation, the Lelands have found a way to remember and honor Nakota by empowering children and their families through these organizations that work each and every day to uplift and give hope to children in Wabash County. We are pleased to serve these organizations and families