Faith Liljegren will be saying goodbye to friends and teachers when she graduates from Collinsville High School in May, but she’ll also be ending her involvement with a student organization that helps District 10 residents in need and one that has played a huge role in her life.
“Just seeing how much it helped my family and how important it was to us and the love and support and people coming together ... That almost meant more to me than the money,” said Faith, 17. “You feel like you’re not alone.”
The organization was featured last month on Fox 2 News on KTVI Channel 2. Meteorologist Chris Higgins interviewed Faith and co-sponsor Jacob Post, a CHS special-education teacher.
“When we raise money, it stays in the district,” Post told Higgins during one of the TV station’s Bus Stop Weather segments. “There’s no money going out.”
Faith has been a member of KAHOKstrong all four years at CHS. Her older sister Hanna was one of its founders. Older brother Luke also was involved.
The organization’s roots go back to 2013, when CHS staff members sold T-shirts and wristbands to help family and consumer-science teacher Sarah Stolcis travel to Boston to participate in a medical study. Stolcis later died of lung cancer at age 30 even though she wasn’t a smoker.
KAHOKstrong became a student organization the following year. Since that time, it has raised money mainly through pink-out sports games, 5-kilometer races and glow-bingo nights.
“If something big happens, like a student has a house fire, we’ll actually organize a fundraising effort specifically for that,” said co-sponsor Toni Geisen, a CHS social-studies teacher.
KAHOKstrong has paid for rent, utilities, medical bills, shoes for nursing and P.E. students, backpacks and other needs. It also does a Christmas gift drive each year.
On Oct. 18, the organization raised $3,500 by selling T-shirts and raffle tickets at a pink-out football game. Proceeds will go toward its Kelley Liljegren Memorial Scholarship.
“Over the years, we’ve donated close to $70,000 in the form of scholarships and donations,” Geisen said.
The former Kelley Davis was an athlete at Carlinville High School and Illinois College. She earned a master’s degree at Sangamon State University and married Mike Liljegren, now a CHS math teacher.
Kelley Liljegren taught at Palatine High School before joining the CHS staff in 2003. She was diagnosed with breast cancer the following year, when Faith was a toddler.
“The doctors gave her a 50-50 chance of living, but she beat cancer,” Faith said. “And then, 10 years later, it came back. She had a relapse. It spread to her liver. She kept fighting, but they ran out of treatment options. Nothing was working.”
Faith plans to attend Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau next fall on soccer and academic scholarships and study business. She wants to become an interior designer and “flip” houses.
KAHOKstrong has about 50 student members. Its next big fundraiser is a glow-bingo night with a silent auction on Jan. 11 at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5691 in Collinsville. For more information, visit the Facebook page.
“The idea is to help our community, Kahoks helping Kahoks,” Geisen said. “It’s there at a moment’s notice. People have been so generous, (needs can usually be met) immediately unless something has to be ordered.”