EAST AURORA, N.Y. -- One little girl's legacy lives on in a big way.
Katie Durkin, then just nine years old, died in a car crash in the Town of Wales over the summer.
Katie was all about sports.
That's why her dad, Jeff Durkin, launched the Butterfly Foundation to build the Butterfly Atheltic Park at Wales Primary where his daughter attended school.
The Butterfly Foundation has another objective though, and that's to establish the K.A.T.I.E. Award. "We honor the kid who has the highest GPA, and we award a scholarship to the kid that's the best athlete, but we don't give a scholarship to the kid that's the best person," said Durkin.
K.A.T.I.E., in the context of this foundation, stands for "Kind and Thoughtful in Everything." That kind of award, Durkin says, is attainable by anyone.
After Katie died this past July, her hockey coach Chris Catanzaro came up with a way to honor her within his team. "It was just such a natural fit to incorporate the K.A.T.I.E. values," he said. Chris wants Katie's teammates and the Aurora Ice Association to emulate Katie by being kind and thoughtful to one another, something that he says can be lost in sports.
"It's an opportunity for us to carry on her legacy and her spirit and really help kids to understand that even though Katie has passed on, that what she left behind is just so important," Chris said.
Chris officially rolled out the K.A.T.I.E. initiative with a special ceremony at Saturday's Mite Jam. He explained to the kids that they might be eligible for a K.A.T.I.E. award if they're caught instinctively doing something kind and thoughtful.
Durkin, who attended today's ceremony, is happy to see the Aurora Ice Association take on its own version of the K.A.T.I.E. award, and hopes other groups will do the same. "It's very humbling, obviously as a father, to see a strong community leader like Chris, who knew Katie, kind of pick up on the idea of the award and, white frankly, really taking it to another level, and truly making it something meaningful that hopefully will be long-lasting and resonate in this community for many years," he said.
"She was just such a coachable kid," Chris said. "The kid that, you know, your son or daughter would want to be, and those are the memories that I have."
Both Chris and Jeff hope their efforts encourage everyone to be a little more like Katie.
The Butterfly Foundation has met about 75 percent of its financial goal but is still about $125,000 short of the funds to build the Athletic Park. You can learn more about the foundation and how to donate here:
Donations can also be mailed to:
Wales Primary PTO
c/o Liz Miller
PO Box 74
South Wales, NY 14139