DeKalb Chronicle Article about DCST Swimmer Ashley Kim

Peers rally behind classmate injured in accident

By CARRIE FRILLMAN - [email protected]

GENOA – Breea Rogalla now knows that something positive can emerge from the most unfortunate circumstances.

“This is something that’s tragic but it’s bringing all of us together,” the 12-year-old said Tuesday, beside four of her friends at Genoa-Kingston Middle School.

Breea was speaking of a Sept. 12 accident in which her close friend, 12-year-old Ashley Kim, dove into a swimming pool at a friend’s house in Genoa and broke her neck. Ashley’s mother, Jin Hee Shin, said her daughter suffered a spinal cord injury and is now paralyzed from the chest down but can still move her fingers.

Shin said she “lost her mind” with worry that Saturday, when she raced to two area hospitals – Kishwaukee Community Hospital in DeKalb and OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford – before finally reaching her daughter, who had ultimately been airlifted to a hospital in Wisconsin.

It was 2:30 a.m. when she made it there, she said.

“Suddenly, this accident comes and (Ashley’s) whole entire life is changed,” Shin said Monday at her business, Genoa Cleaners. “I’m not crying anymore; only my heart is still crying. But many, many people are supporting me. I can’t fall down. I have to stand up for my daughter.”

Among those banding together for Ashley and her family are the students at Genoa-Kingston Middle School, who have been wearing buttons in her honor since the accident. The pins, which feature a photo of Ashley, say “pray for Ashley.”

“I think it empowers them and makes them feel better knowing they are doing something to help their friend,” said Jennifer Franz, the school’s social worker. “A lot of them are very concerned about her.”

The kids set up a table every day before school and during lunchtime to distribute the buttons – they come with a suggested donation of $3 to help the family with medical expenses. Buckets and envelopes are scattered all over town in local gas stations and grocery stores so community members can also contribute to the cause.

Ashley’s friends are constantly brainstorming new ways they can help. Five of them gathered at GKMS on Tuesday and discussed ideas like opening a lemonade stand or contacting more local churches to get behind the fundraising effort.

“It’s been hard for all of us, but we’re getting through it,” said 12-year-old Callie Buzby.

The girls have visited Ashley where she’s being treated in the hospital, they said, adding that they gave her a manicure while they were there.

“There’s literally nothing not to love about Ashley,” Breea said. “She’s so smart, she is so caring and she is so sweet.”

Shin described her only daughter Monday as silly, outgoing, fun and friendly. She is on the swim team at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA, Shin said, and loves going to school to see her friends and teacher.

School Principal Angelo Lekkas said Tuesday that it’s no secret Ashley is well-liked at GKMS.

“She enjoys building relationships with kids and adults alike,” he said. “She likes school, she likes being here and we can’t wait for her to be back.”

Ashley has a long road of recovery ahead, her mother said, but is in good spirits. Shin said she was breathing with the help of a ventilator earlier this week.

Her hospital room is filled with flowers, balloons, cards and gifts from her friends, she said, which offer a simple reminder that people are praying for her. Shin knows her daughter is strong and that her faith in God is helping her, she said.

“God’s very, very special,” she said. “I pray, please hold her. And maybe God is listening to everybody praying together for her.”


Breakfast benefit

What: A Breakfast Benefit for Ashley Kim, a seventh-grade student at Genoa-Kingston Middle School who is paralyzed following a pool accident

When: 7 a.m.-noon on Nov. 15

Where: The parish hall at St. Catherine of Genoa, 340 S. Stott St. in Genoa

Cost: Donations accepted. All proceeds will go to the Kim family to help with medical costs

Sponsors: St. Catherine Parish family, Knights of Columbus No. 14294, Men’s Club of St. Catherine’s Church

Direct donations can be made at any branch of The National Bank & Trust Co. Call Richard Stading at 847-987-1989 or Wendy Engles at 815-784-9070 if you wish to have advance reservations.