Bouncing for a cause: Kuyath heals by helping
In conjunction with the nationwide Child Abuse Prevention Month campaign in April, the second annual Bounce Into Prevention Children's Carnival will be Saturday, April 22, at AP Anderson Park in Red Wing. Local organizers Kelsie Kuyath and Dan Luetje, from One Shake Is All It Takes, the hosting nonprofit organization, said they hope to build off the momentum of a 500-plus crowd that attended the inaugural carnival last spring.
"The carnival is a way to bring awareness of child abuse, but in a fun community event accessible to all families," said Kuyath, the founder of One Shake Is All It Takes.
Kuyath took her first steps toward founding the nonprofit dedicated to preventing shaken baby syndrome/abusive head trauma in May 2013.
"It was six months after Kyra was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome," Kuyath said. "I was looking for other families to share our experiences with and spread awareness."
Kelsie's youngest daughter, Kyra, was 4 months old when she was shaken by her father, who was sentenced to four-plus years in prison for felony malicious punishment of a child.
In the months that followed Kyra's diagnosis, operations and treatment, her mother's outreach began on Facebook, rapidly growing into a website and then a nonprofit organization in 2014.
"Unfortunately, the following grew quickly," Kuyath said. "Shaken baby syndrome is common — about 1,200 to 1,600 children a year are diagnosed."
One Shake Is All It Takes has reached families worldwide, Kuyath said, with the organization having close to 1,000 connections.
"Some families are very open and looking for a support network, while some families need someone they can lean on privately," Kuyath said. "We provide both."
Beyond providing support for families affected by shaken baby syndrome, One Shake Is All It Takes strives to educate new parents and caretakers on child care.
"With young children, it is a time of life, as parents, where it can be kind of a haze. A new parent might not be thinking clearly with an upset newborn at 3 a.m.," said Dan Luetje, One Shake Is All It Takes executive director.
Luetje and Kuyath present a postnatal discharge class every month at Mayo Clinic Health System in Red Wing to new parents. A take-home tool One Shake Is All It Takes provides to parents is a crying plan.
"Our crying plan is a plan for parents to have for themselves and anyone who will be handling their child," Kuyath said.
The plan guides parents to fill out tips for soothing the baby, and provides helplines to call for additional advice.
"It is not a weakness to ask for help," Kuyath said. "(Asking for help) means that you are strong and you are doing what is best for your child."
Luetje said the organization has received feedback from parents that filling out the crying plan has been very helpful.
Kuyath has attended multiple national conferences pertaining to shaken baby syndrome and spoke at a conference in Montreal, Canada.
"I knew that I could help people by sharing our story about Kyra's journey," Kuyath said.
Shaken when she was 4 months old, Kyra will soon turn 5 years old.
Kuyath said her youngest daughter is doing well.
"She has a seizure-condition that is well-controlled," she said.
Alongside her 7-year-old sister, Lexi, Kyra is excited to help her mom "help the babies."
"Lexi understands a little more than Kyra, but they love helping," Kuyath said.
Beyond her work with One Shake Is All It Takes, Kuyath works full time and raises her daughters.
"I refer to her as my hero," Luetje said, who is Kuyath's godfather. "There are many different paths that a parent could take after their child has been shaken — they could just stay within themselves and crumble. I am very proud of Kelsie to go out there and make a difference and be heard."
Gearing up for the carnival
The Bounce Into Prevention Children's Carnival is free and open to the public. The carnival will run from 1-4 p.m.
"We were thrilled by the community's support at our first carnival," Kuyath said. "We hope everyone will return and bring more friends."
Carnivals games, bounce houses, crafts, tattoo booths and raffle prizes will be available.
Kuyath and Luetje said they are still looking for volunteers to help with the event. Anyone interested can email Kuyath at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 651-212-5977.