By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – After graduating from Hudson High School in 2010, Michaella “Kayla” Walsh Libby majored in public health at the University of Maryland (UM). There, she tutored inner-city children with Kids Power in Washington, D.C., and raised funds for the UM chapter of Students Helping Honduras (SHH), with whom she planned to travel and help build a school. However, she died unexpectedly in 2012 at age 20, only weeks before that trip.
Michaella’s mission is being continued by her parents Erin Walsh-Libby and Marty Libby.
“She did a lot more to help people in 20 years than we have in our lifetimes,” Marty said. “It’s important for us to get together once a year with our family, friends and whoever knows Michaella to celebrate her life.”
The third annual “Miles and Smiles for Michaella,” a 3.2-mile walk, will be held Saturday, Oct. 18, beginning and ending at Morgan Bowl. Proceeds go to the Michaella Walsh Libby Scholarship Fund, which is awarded to students who share her interest in community service or will major in a health-related field. Donations are also contributed to Kids Power and SHH.
SHH is described on its website as “a movement to end extreme poverty and violence in Honduras through education and youth empowerment.”
UM students went to Honduras and built a school, dedicated to Michaella. This year, Erin and Marty got firsthand experience by spending a week at a SHH orphanage.
“It was a life-altering trip,” Erin said. “One reason I wanted to go there was because of a girl with cancer whose family couldn’t afford treatments and they put her in the orphanage. She has since passed away. For us, losing a child has been without a doubt the most horror I could ever imagine, and then you go there and you feel a whole different horror.”
While there, they helped build a library on the orphanage grounds and worked on a security wall that protects the compound.
“We were physically exhausted at the end of every day,” Marty acknowledged. “We were the oldest people ever to do this. It’s all college kids and we’re in our 50s.”
They gained a unique perspective of age while interacting with the Honduran children.
“Two-thirds of the population is 32 or younger,” Erin noted. “The kids were in awe of us because they don’t see people our age; they usually see college students.”
“The kids are so affectionate,” Marty added. “As soon as you walk in, they’re hugging and kissing you. They want affection because they’ve never had that in their life.”
Erin and Marty have previously conducted clothing and school supply drives for Honduran youth. At this year’s walk, they’re collecting new or gently-used soccer equipment such as balls, cleats, socks and shin guards.
“A new soccer program is helping keep kids out of gangs, which is so prevalent there,” Erin explained.
Onsite check-in starts at 9:30 a.m. The fun begins at 10:30 with a 50-yard high-heeled dash open to both genders. One brave man donned heels its first year; last year it increased to three.
“Like a lot of girls, Michaella was really into fashion and shoes,” Marty noted.
At 10:45, the 3.2-mile walk will leave Morgan Bowl and travel through Wood Park to River Street, through Wood Square and back to its starting point. New this year is a shorter walk called “Michaella’s Mile.” The fundraiser concludes with a balloon release.
Erin added, “It makes you feel good when you see all these people who are there for Michaella and there for us.”