Tag Archive | "Katy Stewart"

Nancy Stewart Bagshaw Encourages Grieving Families to Remember in “Finding Five”

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The cover of "Finding Five," by Nancy Stewart Bagshaw, published by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, and available now on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

The cover of “Finding Five,” by Nancy Stewart Bagshaw, published by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, and available now on Amazon.com and at Barnes & Noble.

By Tessa Raebeck 

For those growing up on the East End, beachcombing is as much a hobby as swinging at playgrounds or riding bikes. Children traverse the shorelines for hours, finding beach glass, washed up blue crabs and rare shells, skipping rocks and chasing seagulls.

Exploring the beaches to find nature’s treasures was one of Nancy Stewart Bagshaw’s favorite ways to spend time with her niece, Katy Stewart, a beloved young member of the Sag Harbor community who died in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer. In her new book inspired by those days spent at the beach, “Finding Five,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw encourages others to embrace the memories of those who have died, rather than shying away from mentioning them out of heartache and grief.

“I feel as though sometimes it’s an unspoken rule not to discuss those who’ve passed, because I think people are cautious about being hurtful or mentioning something that’s painful, and I think there are the right times and the right places to have those conversations,” the author said Monday.

On the day her niece Katy first went to the hospital complaining of a stomachache, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found a remarkable piece of beach glass in bright turquoise, nearly as big as her palm with unique ridged markings. She was thinking about Katy when she saw the smoothed glass, the most beautiful piece she had ever seen.

The vibrant sea glass became a charm for Ms. Stewart Bagshaw after Katy was diagnosed with cancer—a connection to her vibrant young niece, who still loved combing the beach with her.

“It kind of morphed,” she said of the sea glass, “and I thought, ‘this is life, you get things that are tough, like broken glass—it can cut, it can hurt—but time seems to smooth that away, and that’s maybe a connection to the book too—it takes the edges off of grief.”

Katy died nine months before her 13th birthday. Anxious and unsure of how best to commemorate that day when it came, her aunt decided to walk the beach, thinking of all the time they had spent combing the shores of Sag Harbor and Riverhead, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw’s home.

While honoring her niece’s birthday with their favorite activity, she found a piece of blue sea glass that matched Katy’s eyes. A minute later, there was a sand dollar, an unusual, exciting find. During that walk, feeling as though her niece was somehow guiding her, Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found a remarkable total of five sand dollars.

She was able to address her grief through the happy memories of combing the beach with Katy, and the sand dollars seemed to be a symbol that Katy was still there with her in some way. She found comfort through the continued appreciation of what Katy loved.

"Finding Five" author Nancy Stewart Bagshaw.

“Finding Five” author Nancy Stewart Bagshaw.

In “Finding Five,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw hopes to encourage other grieving families to remember those who have died by sharing memories, laughing over happy stories and continuing to enjoy their favorite things, rather than avoiding them out of heartache.

“Connections are what we need in relationships, so if you take time to encourage those and think about those, I think you’ll do yourself such a huge favor, so I’m hoping that’s what people will get from the book,” she said.

The story, which she calls “a little book with a big message,” started as a short assignment in Dr. Erica Pecorale’s class at Long Island University, where Ms. Stewart Bagshaw, who teaches Spanish at the Bridgehampton School, is earning her second master’s degree in literacy. Soon, it evolved into a full story dedicated to Katy and her younger brother, Robert. Published just last month by Seagull Books, an imprint of Leo Publishing, “Finding Five” is already one of the 100 best selling books for social issues on Amazon, and is also available at Barnes & Noble.

But it began on the beach.

“To me, the beach is the best place—the view is never the same any two days, the weather changes, the tide changes, the shoreline changes,” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw said.

Katy Stewart, 12, passed away in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer.

Katy Stewart, 12, passed away in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer.

“A lot of the writing process, as far as thinking things through, did take place on beach walks. I thought of how I would begin it on a beach walk, I thought of how I would end it on a beach walk, I decided to connect the five petals on a sand dollar with five things that Katy loved on a beach walk,” she added.

Those beach walks not only helped pin down the vision for her book, they also allowed Ms. Stewart Bagshaw to work through her grief by embracing her many memories of beachcombing with Katy.

The turquoise sea glass Ms. Stewart Bagshaw found when Katy was first sick, which stayed in her pocket through the ups, downs and surgeries, now sits in her window with the light shining through it, a daily reminder of her niece’s own vibrancy.

“She was just amazing, because she was always interested in what people were doing and what they enjoyed and it’s almost like her natural curiosity kind of sparked this [focus in ‘Finding Five’ on] what do people enjoy, just that question, what do they care about?” Ms. Stewart Bagshaw said. “Because it tells so much about a person—when you know what they love, you really have a better understanding of a person. That’s why I want to encourage people to know what the people around them love.”

“Everyone has to individually see what that grieving process is like and go through it as best they can,” she added, “and if they see [‘Finding Five’] as a bridge across a challenge, a helpful tool to make things a little bit easier, then I couldn’t ask for more.”

Katy’s Courage 5K Raises $50,000 for Research, Scholarship, Education

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Runners charge from the starting line at the fourth annual Katy's Courage 5K in Sag Harbor on Saturday.

Runners charge from the starting line at the fourth annual Katy’s Courage 5K in Sag Harbor on Saturday.

Katy’s Courage, the non-profit dedicated to education, counseling and pediatric cancer research, hosted its fourth annual Katy’s Courage 5K on April 5. More than 1,200 participants, along with babies in strollers pushed by parents and dogs of all shapes and sizes, ran, jogged or walked to the finish line to help raise funds as well as remember Katy Stewart, a Sag Harbor resident who succumbed to a rare form of pediatric liver cancer in 2011. More than 700 participants pre-registered for this year’s race, which raised over $50,000 through donations, money raised by runners and walkers and sponsorships.

“We relish the opportunity to bring the community together with the aim of creating possibilities for children,” said Brigid Collins, Katy’s mother.

Proceeds will benefit a scholarship awarded to a Pierson High School student, a donation to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the creation of Katy’s Kids, a new partnership with the Children’s Museum of the East End.

For more information about Katy’s Courage, visit katyscourage.org. Donations can be sent by check to P.O. Box 3251, Sag Harbor, NY, 11963.

Katy’s Courage 5K Brings Community Together

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Runners sprint from the starting line on Long Island Avenue at the start of the 2013 Katy's Courage 5K Run on Saturday. Photo by Michael Heller.

Runners sprint from the starting line on Long Island Avenue at the start of the 2013 Katy’s Courage 5K Run on Saturday. Photo by Michael Heller.

By Stephen J. Kotz

Runners of all ages and abilities will converge on West Water Street in Sag Harbor this Saturday for the fourth annual Katy’s Courage 5-K run.

The event will raise money for scholarships, pediatric cancer research, and, perhaps most importantly this year, a new bereavement program for children the organization has recently founded in conjunction with the Children’s Museum of the East End in Bridgehampton.

“We hope a lot of people will come out,” said Katy’s mother, Brigid Collins Stewart. “It’s early in the morning, it’s a beautiful course, and it’s the kind of race that draws everyone from elite runners to mothers with baby carriages.”

The entry fee, if paid in advance, is $25. The fee on the day of the race is $30. Check-in starts along the waterfront on West Water Street at 7 a.m. and runs through 8:15 a.m. The race starts at 8:30 a.m.

Prizes will be given for the top three male finishers, the top three female finishers and the top three males and top three females in nine different age categories, ranging from 14 and under to 80 and older.

Despite enduring the heartbreak of losing her daughter more than three years ago, Ms. Stewart said events like the 5-k run, an annual student classical concert, and a skate-athon at the Buckskill Winter Club in East Hampton help ease the pain and remind her of her daughter’s impact on others.

“She still inspires people. There are people I don’t even know who still call me to tell me what a great inspiration she was,” said Ms. Stewart. “We were very proud of her—and we still are. She went through a lot as a child and even though she did get a bum deal she handled it well.”

Ms. Stewart said she expects anywhere from 1,200 to 1,500 runners to take part in this year’s run, and she was keeping a somewhat nervous eye on the weather report, which calls for a chance of rain and temperatures in the low 50s, for the weekend.

If proceeds keep pace with last year, Katy’s Courage will raise about $30,000 from the run, making it the charity’s biggest money maker.

“We’re excited because this is the first year we have fulfilled our third goal, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE,” Ms. Stewart said.

Although still in the development stage, Katy’s Kids @ CMEE will offer bereavement programs for children, including private and group therapy with mental health professionals with a special focus on play therapy. Ms. Stewart said the goal is to have pilot programs operating by the fall.

The Stewarts became convinced of the value of play therapy in helping children cope with the loss of a loved one from firsthand experience. Their son, Robert, was only 6 and staying with his grandparents when Katy died.

“Robert was upset and told us, ‘I never got a chance to say goodbye,” recalled Ms. Stewart.

She said she and her husband first tried to talk about Robert’s grief with their son, but learned that children grieve in their own way and need time and the right situation to open up. A friend recommended the family visit the Children’s Bereavement Center in San Antonio, Texas, where they saw Robert make great strides in his own healing journey through play therapy.

“We believe so much in play therapy, and there is really not much available out here,” Ms. Stewart said.

Proceeds from Saturday’s run will also help underwrite a $10,000 scholarship that Katy’s Courage awards each year to a Pierson High School senior. The stipend is paid out over four years and presented to a student who leads through example characterized y by kindness, goodness, respect and empathy toward others.

The third beneficiary of the run is the Katy’s Courage Fund for Pediatric Cancer Research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, which the Stewarts began with a $25,000 donation in 2012.

Ms. Stewart said the run would never be the success it has become without its many sponsors and other community volunteers. “We are grateful to all our sponsors,” she said. “Everyone gives what they can.”

She said that Ben Krupinski is a major sponsor, through his 1770 House and Citta Nuova restaurants as well as his building company. Other major sponsors include Wainscott Sand and Gravel, Mickey’s Carting, Suburban Sanitation, Riverhead Building Supply, the Bagel Buoy, Sag Harbor Beverage, and Starbucks Coffee.

Boy scouts run the water stations and still other students run the Katy Bug Lane Boutique, which sells baked goods, hair accessories, bracelets and other small items, and the Sag Harbor Fire Department helps set up and take down the event. Nina Landi is the race director and Bruce and Kelly McMahon also provide invaluable help.

“It takes a village,” said Ms. Stewart. “Everyone goes out of their way to help.”

Over 1700 Compete in Katy’s Courage 5k

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By EJ Yennie

When planning Katy’s Courage 5K, Tom O’Donoghue was told that expecting 1000 runners for an inaugural race was unlikely. By the closing of the pre-registration at 3 o’clock on Friday, 937 had signed up. With only 1000 bib numbers, they scrambled to get another 400 bibs and Saturday morning registered another 400 runners; they then signed up between 400 and 500 additional runners who participated without numbers. The race director estimated between 1700 and 1800 runners participated in total.
Mike Semkus, 23, of Sag Harbor was the overall winner with a time of 17:48. He commented “I haven’t been running much, but after the first mile, I thought I could win. I knew most of the volunteers so I felt good because people were cheering for me.”

In second was Ross Kadri, 18, of East Hampton, in 18:06. Luis Ramires, 20, of Water Mill came in third with a time of 18:08. The first place woman was Laura Brown, 43, of Westhampton in 19:19. In second place was Kathryn Hess, 16, of East Hampton. Alexandra Copeland, 39, of Brooklyn took third in 20:50. Additional results can be found on line at Island Timing.

The goal, of raising $20,000 to go towards an annual scholarship in memory of Katy Stewart, was easily met. Although all the final figures are not yet in, O’Donoghue estimates that the profits were easily triple of what he had initially hoped for. He attributes this to both the number of runners and the generosity of the sponsors.

“It’s an annual event; we will do it again next year” declared O’Donoghue.
Although it was a fund raiser, O’Donoghue is adamant that he wants it to be a race as well. By offering cash prizes to the top winners, he hopes to attract a serious crowd of runners in the future, as well as a core group who are willing to run for charity. His next endeavor is to get a group of 40 runners to run as a team in the Hampton Half Marathon in the fall, raising money to fight childhood cancer as well.

Benefit for “Katy’s Courage” Relay for Life Team

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Local student Katy Stewart’s relay for life team, named “Katy’s Courage,” in conjunction with the American Cancer Society, will hold a fundraiser on Saturday, February 6. Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett will provide free hors d’oeuvres and specially priced drinks from 6 to 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., attendees are invited to head over to Stephen Talkhouse for an evening of rock n’ roll with the band “Second Shift.” Admission is $10 and all proceeds will be donated to “Katy’s Courage” and the American Cancer Society for cancer research. The “Katy’s Courage” team is comprised of 13 middle and high school students from East Hampton and Sag Harbor schools. Stewart, a Sag Harbor student, was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer last year.

Above: Katy Stewart in a snapshot with her father Jim.

Donations can be made remotely at http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?pg=team&fr_id=20908&team_id=587563.

Shorn Locks Show School Spirit

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On the day before April vacation ended, fifth grade teachers George Kneeland and Kelly Hornung learned one of their students, Katy Stewart, was diagnosed with liver cancer. On Wednesday, the day school reopened, Hornung and Kneeland sat down with their students to explain the news.
“I had asked Katy what she wanted us to say and one of her biggest concerns was about her hair because she would most likely lose it,” said Hornung. “Her hair was so long and it had kind of become her trademark.”
In the weeks after Kneeland and Hornung explained the effects of chemotherapy treatment to Katy’s fellow classmates, eight boys from her class decided to shave their heads in support of Katy and her recovery.
“The boys said to me, ‘Mr. Kneeland, I didn’t want Katy to be alone.’ I think they didn’t want her to feel like she was on an island,” Kneeland recalled.
Kneeland says most of his fifth grade students are on the cusp of adolescence, and are starting to become more aware of their appearance.
“I think the kids have a truer understanding of what that embarrassment feels like,” said Kneeland of Katy’s experience of losing her hair.
Student Harrison Yardley was one of the first boys to shave his head.
“The school nurse recommended it to a lot of people. The day Katy lost her hair, I got mine shaved,” remembered Harrison. “I think it will help her because now she isn’t the only one who will have a shaved head.”
After Harrison buzzed off his hair, fellow students slowly followed suit. At first, Jaime Cantrell’s son, Otis Eames, was reluctant to shave his head.
“I told him that it would be a nice thing to do and he said, ‘Mommy do you know how embarrassing that would be?’,” Cantrell recalled. “But I told him that Katy is a girl and she would probably be very embarrassed. A week later when we found out that Katy had lost her hair, he came home and said that he had decided to do it.”
“I did it so that she wouldn’t feel left out,” said Otis. “The class is really small so everyone is friends with everyone.”
Both Kneeland and Hornung believe their students share a special kinship with one another, which has helped them deal with Katy’s diagnosis and help her through it.
“Even though the kids have a school family, we are their class family. We have a very close knit environment. Not everyone is best friends, but they all respect each other and they all know how to rally around each other and be there for one another,” said Kneeland.
The students continue to confirm Kneeland’s observations as Katy proceeds with her treatment. Students write on a webpage created for Katy through the website CaringBridge at www.caringbridge.org/visit/katystewart. Hornung says the children have also worked on several projects for Katy, including compiling a scrap book complete with letters they have written to Katy. Hornung said Katy often reads the scrapbook during her chemotherapy treatments.
Because of her medication, Katy is only able to come to school once or twice a week, but she has already seen the boys’ new hairdos.
“At first I don’t think she knew how to react. I think she is really appreciative, but she doesn’t have the words to articulate it,” added Hornung. “But she said to me that she thinks it is pretty cool.”
Teaching assistant Mary Schiavoni and another female student also recently snipped off their tresses and donated the hair to the not-for-profit Locks of Love.
Externally, the students continue to find ways to support Katy, but internally Hornung believes her illness has had a deeper effect on the children’s outlook on life.
“I think this is a good lessen for the students. It shows them the little problems here and there are nothing compared to what Katy has had to go through,” opined Hornung. “They are starting to appreciate the little things in life, when they see her going through something so serious and she still has a positive outlook.”
For now, Katy’s treatment appears to be going well and Hornung and Kneeland say they are continually surprised by the class’ solidarity in helping Katy through this difficult time.
“It has been a pretty emotional ride, but it has been really nice to see how mature her classmates have been,” noted Hornung.
“I couldn’t be prouder of how the class has handled this,” Kneeland declared. “They have been really encouraging.”

Lots of “Ade” for Katy

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When Katy Stewart, a fifth grader at Sag Harbor Elementary, was diagnosed with liver cancer many parents and teachers wondered how her classmates and their families would cope with her treatment and recovery.

At school a constant outpouring of get-well-soon sentiments, expressed in cards and caring notes, has become the norm, while community parents have tried to help the Stewart family with mundane day-to-day tasks like housework and meals.

Meanwhile a group of Katy’s classmates, on learning that she would be losing her hair in chemotherapy, hit on an unusual and creative scheme: a lemonade stand fundraiser to pay for Katy’s wig.

Enlisting their mothers, the girls set out their first stand the weekend before last in North Haven and netted $278 in an afternoon. That one went so well that they decided to have another last weekend on Madison Street, raising another $450 to bring the sum of their efforts to $758.

Denise O’Brien, one of the mothers who spearheaded much of the planning, raised $400 in other donations to fully cover the cost of the wig. The wig itself was ordered through a wigmaker friend of Christie Brinkley, whose daughter Sailor was once a classmate of Katy’s. Katy and her mother went to the wigmaker last Friday to find something that would work when the chemotherapy takes its toll on Katy’s hair.

Besides Denise and Christie, mothers Susan Kinsella, Ellie Jannetti, Kathleen Mulcahy, Carla O’Donoghue and Kelly Kunzeman all had a hand in what was done. The fifth graders at both stands were Fallon O’Brien, Courtney Kinsella, Sarah Jannetti, Kerrie Vila, Rose O’Donoghue and Claire Kunzeman. Kit Ramgopal was also at the stand this past weekend.

Those interested in Katy’s condition are invited to follow her progress at www.caringbridge.org/visit/katystewart.