In Her Honor
Published: January 31, 2013
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Moosic residents John and Karen Gilchrist always wanted to have a big family.
"We had three children already and tried again," said Gilchrist. "I was thrilled when I became pregnant again."
Kiara Christi Gilchrist was born on July 15, 2007.
"You start to plan their life, what they'll look like, if they will like sports," she said. "You never, ever think of anything bad."
As they planned for their new baby's future, they had no idea what was in store. She passed away in July, just one week after turning five.
"No one ever suspected anything was wrong with her during the pregnancy," she explained.
Gilchrist explained her eye was swollen, but doctor's thought it was just a droopy eyelid.
"The second she was born I felt this immediate attachment," she said. "At two weeks I noticed there was something wrong. I had a pit in my stomach."
According to Gilchrist, after insisting her mother's instinct was on the mark, Kiara was sent for an MRI several months later.
That test showed that the middle portion of Kiara's brain, the corpus callosum, was agenesis (missing).
"We were completely devastated," she said.
"In normal people that's the bridge between both hemispheres that allows your brain to work your limbs," she said. "You can live a normal life with that, but she also had other parts of her brain that were underdeveloped and there was also a large amount of extra fluid."
Kiara's eyes worked, but her vision was impaired. She had epilepsy and cerebral palsy and wasn't able to talk or walk.
"I always knew what she wanted," Gilchrist said. "And I was determined to give her the best life I could possibly give her. What ever I could do to make her happy was my goal in life."
Now Gilchrist's mission has changed, focusing on helping others in her memory.
Last Christmas, Gilchrist started a Facebook event in her daughter's honor that was called "12 Days of Christmas Kindness for Kiara."
"Two thousand people responded and agreed to participate by doing a random act of kindness for a stranger," she said. "It could have been something as simple as holding a door open for a stranger. Just something to make a smile appear on someone else's face."
That successful response led to an idea from Riverside Elementary West's principal, Paul Brennan.
"He knew I wanted to provide a scholarship in Kiara's name, so he suggested working with area salons," Gilchrist said.
That idea has transformed into "Kisses, Kurls and Kuts for Kiara," planned for Sunday, Feb. 10, from 1-5 p.m. at Colarusso's La Palazzo on Birney Avenue in Moosic.
"We're going to establish four scholarships for graduating Riverside seniors," Gilchrist explained. "One is for students entering the therapy field, one for a student entering the special needs field, one entering the nursing field and one for a child with special needs."
For complete details, see the advertisement on page five of this week's Triboro Banner.
"I just want to help parents of kids who have special needs," she said. "It doesn't matter if that person I'm helping is a child, or an adult. What matters is that I am able to help that person."