LA GRANGE — Three of the nine Lyons Township High School students who organized Saturday’s second annual Kelli Joy O’Laughlin memorial benefit concert, JOY, sat in front of the school about 90 minutes before the 7 p.m. start time and talked about their late friend.
“We just don’t want anyone to forget who Kelli was,” said LT junior Emily Parkes, who first met O’Laughlin at a summer camp.
“We want to do this so everyone remembers Kelli, and we want to do it for as long as we can,” added fellow LT junior Annie LeFevour, who grew up with O’Laughlin. “We still have this year and another year before we graduate, but we hope to pass this on to the younger classes.”
The concert, which featured performances by about 30 LT students, was just one of many fundraising events conducted in memory of O’Laughlin, who was 14 when she was killed in her Indian Head Park home in October 2011.
“There’s a variety of music for the concert; the only rule is that we want everything to be upbeat,” LeFevour said. “We don’t want any sad songs.”
Car washes, golf outings, tennis tournaments, a fun run, raffles, and sales of flowers, bracelets and necklaces all have been conducted to raise money for the memorial fund that was established shortly after O’Laughlin’s death by her parents, Brenda and John O’Laughlin.
From money raised for the memorial fund, eight LT students to date have received college scholarships, and the O’Laughlins set up a special fund for teens to spend a week at Camp Tecumseh in Brookston, Ind., where Kelli spent six summers as a camper. In addition, gift giving to the less fortunate at Christmas will continue because that was one of Kelli’s favorite activities.
“She lived joy; it’s just so perfect that Joy is her middle name,” LeFevour said. “I’ll never forget her smile.”
Parkes said it’s important to continue having activities with a positive outcomes in O’Laughlin’s memory.
“She affected us so much in a positive way, and we want to share that with everyone,” Parkes said.
Katlyn Freeman, another LT junior who was one of the concert organizers, said new uniforms this fall for the Lions girls tennis team have the letters KJ as part of the design — those are the first letters of O’Laughlin’s first and middle names — in memory of the former LT freshman tennis player.
“I hope that stays on the uniforms,” said Freeman, who is on the girls tennis team. “Every year when new students join the team, someone can tell them why those letters are there.”
Along with Freeman, LeFevour, and Parkes, the other student organizers of the concert were Emily Atseff, David Hussey, Jack Hollinger, Jessica Klimes, Kaity Shepard, and Mark Gomez.