When tragedy hits, life can be forever changed. When tragedy hit the Bruggenschmidt family, the community was changed, as well.
The Bruggenschmidts lost their 11-year-old daughter, Kate, in the summer of 2015. Kate won a softball game with her team in the morning before going to a friend’s house later in the afternoon. The unthinkable happened. Kate died tragically at her friend’s house in an ATV accident. With one call, the Bruggenschmidts lives changed.
Others may have thrown in the towel, but Kate’s friends and family pushed forward and created the Play for Kate Foundation. The slogan turned into a movement with the first Play for Kate tournament in October last year. Since then, the foundation has built a $60,000 park, given four $1,000 scholarships, held a golf scramble, held a second annual softball tournament just last week and is working to open a buddy ball field to help special needs kids participate in baseball and softball.
Ashlee Bruggenschmidt, Kate’s mother, says the momentum and success of the foundation is thanks to the community rallying behind her family when they needed it the most. She said even outside of the official work of the foundation, community members and organizations have held car washes, spirit days, bucket shakes, restaurant give back and parking lot parties to help support the work of Play for Kate.
“People have been giving in so many ways,” she said.
When Kate died, Bruggenschmidt said the family was left with two options: either let the loss and pain take over their lives or find a way to press on.
“There was a part that wanted to give up,” she said. “But that’s not what Kate would have wanted.”
Bruggenschmidt said that in her short time, Kate was able to make a positive difference and the family wanted to continue what she started.
“As her mother and her friends and family, we want to make her proud,” she said. “As a mom, you do things for your kids.”
Bruggenschmidt said the help from the community made her family’s decision easy. The circle of compassion surrounding her family after they lost Kate helped them be able to move forward.
“In Kate’s tragedy, we were confronted with so much good and outpourings of compassion,” she said. “That helped us choose caring, compassion, empathy and hope.”
From there, Bruggenschmidt said the rest was almost easy. She said her family is moving forward by helping others.
“Giving is a way to channel grief and focus on someone else’s needs,” she said. “You find your purpose and choose hope. Healing others helps us heal.”
Bruggenschmidt said people should take available opportunities to help any cause that gives back to the community. She said the only thing anyone can do in tragic situations is try to move forward individually and as a community.
“That’s what life is all about —to give and make this world a better place,” she said.
With the major accomplishments the foundation has achieved in the last year, the foundation is looking to the future. Bruggenschmidt said they will continue to offer scholarships and will continue to work to find ways to benefit kids and the community.
ATV safety education is a major focus for the foundation. Bruggenschmidt said the foundation is currently working with the DNR to get an animatronic ATV with a robotic animal driver to help teach kids about ATV safety in an interactive way. She said the foundation is also working with the DNR and the University of Evansville engineering program to create the first-ever ATV simulator for hands-on safety training.
As the foundation works with the community, Bruggenschmidt said the family will continue to heal through giving to others and by the surrounding of love and encouragement from their friends and family.
“You have to make a decision, to be swallowed up or move forward by channeling your loss into positive action,” she said.
It’s clear the Bruggenschmidts have chosen the latter.