SYCAMORE – Kayla Craig is paid less than $800 a month, less than $10,000 a year. Yet she stretches her income, so far that she donates a couple of times a year to agencies that have given her invaluable assistance over the years.
Craig, 23, was born with hydrocephalus and cerebral palsy, limiting her vision and use of the left side of her body in general. A Genoa-Kingston High School graduate, she benefited from numerous human service agencies and, in May 2016, with assistance from the RAMP office in DeKalb County, moved into her own place in Sycamore.
She works at Walnut Grove Vocational Farm in Kirkland and the Kishwaukee Special Recreation Association, and just put in an application Tuesday to volunteer at the Kishwaukee Family YMCA. A couple of times a year, she donates $5 to those agencies, and she urges others to do the same.
“It just feels good to give, and to let people know they’re appreciated,” she said.
Thursday will be a golden opportunity to join in giving back, during the fifth annual Give DeKalb County fundraiser. Ben Bingle, director of DeKalb County nonprofit partnership for the DeKalb County Community Foundation, said more than $465,000 was donated last year – a high-water mark for the event “by a noticeable amount,” he said.
Bingle marvels at Craig’s desire to give back.
“She’s an incredible person,” he said. “She’s also hilarious. She’s truly one of a kind.”
Once the clock strikes midnight Wednesday into Thursday, over those next 24 hours, you can join Craig in giving back by visiting givedekalbcounty.org and making a donation to an organization of your choice. You also can visit the foundation at 475 DeKalb Ave. with cash or a check, although the person who writes the check must be the person who drops it off, Bingle said.
When Craig graduated from G-K, she attended the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired, and then returned with a terrifying premonition.
“She said she wasn’t going to live with us, that she was going to move out on her own,” said Craig’s mom, Julie Craig, who is program director for The Gracie Center, which provides life skills and vocational training opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.
The reach for independence reminded her of when Kayla told her she was going to start riding the bus while she was in high school.
“The first time she took the bus, I dropped her off at the Jewel-[Osco] on 23, and I cried the whole way,” she said. “I was behind her, and she didn’t know it; she couldn’t see me. She rode the bus from Jewel to Walmart, and I cried the whole way.”
Kayla got off the bus and was in full celebration mode. She’d loved it.
Today, she’s on a first-name basis with all the TransVAC drivers, who get her everywhere she needs to go. They know her schedule and drop her off right by her destination’s door when it’s icy out.
“They’re like my other set of parents,” Kayla said.
As for her biological parents, they recently took a two-week vacation to Arizona – their first since they had Kayla, their youngest of three children.
“That was the first time in 23 years my husband and I were able to do that,” Craig said. “Huge. Huge difference it made.”
That’s true for all parties involved. Kayla admits it was a bit jarring to know she was truly on her own, but the sense of independence it gave her was priceless.
“I’m not going to lie. It was scary at first,” she said. “But once I kind of put into play what I was going to do, I thought, ‘I got this. No big deal.’”