Kayla Brooke Lehmann, (April 5, 2003 – April 7, 2018), a beautiful, talented, and smart young woman, lost her life to suicide at the age of 15. She was on the cusp of adulthood when a world of opportunity and experiences should have been before her.
A reader, writer, violinist, athlete, penguin lover, and TV show enthusiast, Kayla was deeply loved by her close-knit family and friends. Kayla dreamed of a world free from judgment and demonstrated kindness to all people. Despite her compassion and understanding for others, depression haunted Kayla.
The Kayla’s Hope Foundation Scholarship Fund is helping break down the stigma of mental illness and raise funds so others may have the opportunity to benefit from advanced scientific research and advanced clinical treatment of mental illness, greater education, and awareness of mental health in our schools.
Through the mantra, ‘It’s OKAY to Not be OKAY,” the Foundation also makes available scholarships to graduating seniors to enable bright futures for our next generation and provide hope for a community torn apart by the loss of Kayla Brooke Lehman.
Kayla’s premature passing left a massive void in the community and amongst family, neighbors, and friends. April 5th, 2021 marked her 18th birthday. The milestone occasion was the ideal opportunity for the community to take hold of what was in their hearts and turn it into something meaningful, turning grief into collective impact.
But how to do that in a way that not only honored Kayla but increased awareness?
One neighbor had a connection that sparked an idea. ‘Kayla’s Hope Week’ was designed to further the mission in support of Kayla’s legacy and the outstanding work of the Foundation. The idea for a week–long fundraising event brought the community together with a purpose to spread love and kindness, just as Kayla would have wanted. The special event would celebrate life, love, and legacy and liberate the ever-important awareness for mental health illness.
Ruthie Lehmann, Mother, Founder, Kayla’s Hope Foundation, shared her sentiments, “We have some really special friends, that just blew me away. We are humbled by the overwhelming support and the prayers, music, ribbons, generosity, cards, emails, walks, Kayla’s Hope Week, and the coming together of so many. We are forever grateful.”
With the idea percolating, a small group of neighbors banded together to get this inaugural fundraiser off the ground. Although the 100% volunteer-based and family-run Foundation was in its infancy, it was exploding with desire to help drive impact.
“We get Kayla’s Hope out there. We want people to know who we are. People from all over, reach out to us. It’s a huge commitment. It can be hard sometimes, especially with the stories you hear. I realized that a lot of the people just want to talk,” said Lehmann.
There wasn’t a lot of time for a formal fundraising strategy. The Foundation didn’t have a special events team, events calendar, or event fundraiser programming in place. And they surely did not have budget at the time.
A global health crisis further limited their ability to create impact. During a pandemic, an in-person event was out of the question. Their only option was virtual.
There was will, but was there a way?
That’s when the neighbor’s connection changed everything.
When a community cares, OneCause Cares.
About a year prior to Kayla’s passing the Leadership Team at OneCause approved a new employee benefit called ‘Kickstart Your Cause.’ This employee-driven program allows OneCause full time employees to donate software to a nonprofit of their choice. It’s part of the company’s commitment to invest in their employees and their communities, and impact positive change.
The CMO at OneCause was instrumental with getting behind and implementing the Kickstart Your Cause program. That same executive was also Kayla’s neighbor, and personally moved to make a difference.
In March 2021 the community rallied behind Kayla’s Hope Week while the Marketing Officer submitted a sponsorship application on behalf of Kayla’s Hope. The OneCause Mobile Bidding solution was swiftly put into play to support the event.
After normal working hours and over the weekends, the group of friends and neighbors got creative with their fundraising plans. The software helped bring everything to life.
The 7-day birthday week event highlighted a ‘hashtag of the day” to spread awareness about mental health issues. Supporters were challenged to post pictures to their social channels supporting the “Matters” theme:
It was a precious tribute to their beloved Kayla.
Timing was perfect for a friendly competition over the Masters Tournament, one of the four major championships in professional golf which took place over Kayla’s birthday week. Hans Lehmann, Kayla’s Dad, hosted a sold-out drawing opportunity where participants were randomly paired with a golf buddy for the chance to win a prize.
They also held a silent auction, which was so popular it had zero items with no bids. They featured Kayla’s Hope merchandise. T-shirts, golf shirts, and stunning bracelets were available, and sales did not disappoint.
There were multiple giving opportunities available to supporters throughout the week. Aside from a direct donation, Kayla’s Hope Foundation partnered with a local car dealer McGrath Honda who offered a $50 donation for every car sold!
The neighborhood group behind the event was thoughtful, intentional, and authentic in everything they planned. Their messaging was endearing and most welcoming:
So, when there is a will, there really is a way. And with love, community, and OneCause fundraising software Kayla’s Hope was able to turn loss into impact.
Lehmann summed up her experience, “I loved it! Oh my gosh! It was great. I’m shocked people were so involved. The OneCause software was so user friendly. I was impressed with how it works and the comprehensive reporting. You could easily tweak it for real time updates. The software is perfect.”
Kayla’s Hope Inaugural Fundraising Event set amazing benchmarks for the future: