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Scholarship helps those left behind by cancer

The Kansas City Star

Kaitlin Landes received a scholarship from the KLL Foundation, which helps students who have lost a parent to cancer.

For Kaitlin Landes there are always reminders that she lives without her father.

He died 12 years ago of leukemia when she was only 6 years old. But even as an 18-year-old budding adult, she continues to experience and cope with the loss.

Father-daughter dances are painful. Holidays are never quite the same.

“Recently, I went to a wedding and there was a father-daughter dance and I was just thinking that I’ll never get to do that,” said Landes, who lives in Overland Park. “It’s just tough.”

The KLL Foundation is meant to make life easier for those who are left behind from cancer like Landes, who received a $1,000-a-year scholarship from the foundation in June. And the foundation is encouraging current high school students who have lost a parent to cancer to start applying for next year’s scholarship.

The foundation and the scholarship were created to honor Kelly Lynn Lutz, who died of breast cancer in 2008. Lutz’s husband, Shane Lutz of Overland Park, said the community’s help during his wife’s nine-year struggle inspired him to start the foundation.

“There was just so much support I thought there had to be a way to capture that,” he said.

Lutz said there area many organizations that fund and advocate for the research, science and health issues related with cancer. The KLL Foundation wanted to directly support those who are left behind from cancer, he said. The first scholarship was awarded before Kelly Lutz passed away.

“We just felt there was a need there,” Shane Lutz said. “Knowing what it’s like losing a parent, losing a spouse, it was very real for us. We just thought let’s turn this loss into helping people who are going through something that we’re going through.”

Lutz hopes the foundation can eventually give out larger and more scholarships. The foundation recently held a 5k run and walk that raised $50,000.

“Our goal is two-fold: Continually raise as much money as we can, but then turn around and give away as much money as we can,” Lutz said.

In addition to providing help to others who have lost loved ones to cancer, Lutz said the foundation is a positive coping tool for him and his two daughters, who are honorary members of the foundation’s board

“It’s just neat to have this kind of in her honor and see all the good that comes out of it, not just financially, but how it brings people together,” he said. “It’s really given a lot of people, including our family, something positive to focus on in honor of her.”

Landes, this year’s scholarship recipient, will begin at Kansas State University in a few weeks. While the scholarship won’t fund her entire education, it is a welcomed help.

“It takes some of the stress of paying for college away,” she said. “So that’s really nice. To have a blessing come out of a tragedy means a lot.”

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