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RISING UP & GIVING BACK By Sherry Hang

Meet four local families who found the good when faced with big challenges.

Chris Jones, Sr., Danielle Jones, and Christopher Louis Jones, Jr., aka “Junior.”

Lori Highlaner, Kilee Brookbank and her brother Cameron.

The Bray family: parents Dwan and Aaron with baby Ny’Leah Angel, Nadjah, twins Aarion and Aubrey, and Akerah.

I

t’s difficult to maintain a positive outlook following hardship. Ironically, though, many families who suffer from one of life’s curve balls find a way to give back to those who supported them during their time of need. Meet four families who did exactly that.

This is definitely a recovery story.

— Lori Highlander

Kilee Brookbank is a typical college freshman — attending class, making friends, figuring out what she wants to do in life. But what’s not typical is that Kilee has already published her own book and started a charitable foundation. Many may remember Kilee’s

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November 2016

story — in November 2014, Kilee suffered second and third degree burns on 45 percent of her body in a house explosion caused by a gas leak. After multiple surgeries and skin grafts, she endured the painful process of healing, including re-learning everyday tasks like tying shoe laces. Kilee might not have survived the explosion, but she and her mother, Lori Highlander, agree that two important factors were in their favor: family, and the good fortune of living only an hour away from the Shriners Hospital for Children Cincinnati. “We wouldn’t have made it without them, we were lucky to be so close,” says Lori. Kilee remembers that many of the children she met during her stay had to travel from across the country, even from around the world. “I could see how that affected them, being in an unfamiliar place.”

Inspired by their experience and the work done at Shriners, (and as a way to work through the emotional toll of recovery), Kilee and Lori contributed to a book that detailed their journey from each of their perspectives. Titled Beautiful Scars, a portion of the book’s proceeds benefits Shriners Cincinnati. In addition, Kilee and her family also founded the Kilee Gives Back Foundation. In 2015, the Foundation hosted a charity golf outing that raised approximately $40,000, and this year, that same outing raised $55,000. More fundraising activities are in the works. Learn more about Kilee and her mom, the book Beautiful Scars and the Kilee Gives Back Foundation at kicamprojects.com and kileegivesback.org.

“Where Every Family Matters.”

There’s nothing she can’t do.

— Dwan Bray

Nadjah Bray, 12, and the oldest of five, discovered an interest in cooking when her sister was born with cerebral palsy. While her mom Dwan spent long days in the NICU, Nadjah would prepare meals for the family, including her twin brothers who have autism. A fan of the TV show Chopped, Nadjah was excited to learn that there was a version just for kids, Chopped Jr. So she went to the show’s website and applied — informing her mom later with an off-hand remark about how the show’s producers in New York might call! Dwan was only a little sur-

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CF1116  

Cincinnati Family magazine November 2016

CF1116  

Cincinnati Family magazine November 2016

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