SOUTHERN INDIANA — The kindness and generosity of two children killed last week in Panama City Beach, Florida, will live on through a foundation their parents are starting to help other children.
Six-year-old Addie Kirchgessner and her brother, 4-year-old Baylor, died Dec. 4 after injuries sustained when a truck veered onto a miniature golf area at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park where the children were with their parents.
Their father, Matt Kirchgessner, who was raised in New Albany and co-owns Elk Run Golf Club with his father, said the family had been on an extended break in Florida as the children finished this semester of nontraditional learning. Their mother, Lauren, a teacher with Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, was also teaching remotely.
“So instead of going outside and it being cold when they’re finished, they could go play at the beach,” Kirchgessner said. “Panama City is our second home. It’s our happy place.”
In the days since their deaths, the community has raised close to $200,000 to support the family. Kirchgessner said he and his wife have been amazed by the support. They’ve decided to use all of the funds to help start a foundation that will go on to help other children.
“Addie and Baylor are starting a foundation,” he said. “That GoFundMe is just the tip of the iceberg, and when I think about what they are going to do, it puts the biggest smile on my face.”
The past week has been full of unimaginable emotions for the family as they struggle to make sense of the loss. But knowing they can focus on the foundation gives Kirchgessner some grounding, he said.
“I go from hysterically crying when I talk about this to it just gives a peace over me,” he said. “I get a calm and a peace like ‘this is it, this is what we’re going to do.’
“They’re not here but they’re going to live on.”
To start, the couple wants to help make improvements to the children’s school. They both attended Notre Dame Academy in Louisville; ‘Addie K,’ as her friends called her, was a first-grader and Baylor was in the school’s St. Lawrence preschool.
Initial ideas include renovations to the library — something Addie, who was just learning to read — would appreciate.
“She read books to us every night; she loved it,” her father said. “We’d be driving down the road and she’d just read signs.”
The library’s current STEM component would be something up Baylor’s alley.
“Baylor loved to dig and build and loved his dump trucks and excavators and tractors,” Kirchgessner said.
The couple is also looking at scholarships and renovations to the preschool, which is now in an older building.
“My wife, as a schoolteacher, she already has a ton of ideas of what she wants to do,” Kirchgessner said. “The sky is the limit with this...we’re dreaming big.
“They were our world...they are our world. This is what’s going to keep us going, this is going to be our lives until we’re gone. Addie and Baylor can continue to help a lot of kids.”
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, $188,962 had been raised by more than 3,300 donors — a $9,000 increase from the previous day. To donate, go to https://bit.ly/kirchgessnergofundme