You’re unlikely to find a 15-year-old with a bucket list, but Kinsey Morrison has been checking her list since defeating three life threatening illnesses.
This year, the St. Francis High School sophomore will cross off another item, though it’s not one she had originally planned. Kinsey was chosen to sit for a pastel portrait created by Gaela Erwin, artist-in-residence at St. Francis High School, who will auction off her painting at Imagine 2012, a major art fundraiser for St. Francis High School.
Last year, Erwin raised $3,000 for the school’s scholarship fund with her painting of another St. Francis student, Noor Ambure, a refugee from Somalia.
“The sole purpose of Imagine is to help provide scholarship funds for our students, and St. Francis is quite unique in its commitment to scholarships and financial aid,” said Alexandra Thurstone, head of St. Francis High School. “It really is our goal that any student who is admitted to the school is able to attend regardless of their financial circumstances.”
Kinsey too is a recipient of a scholarship, which she greatly needed after her family went into a quarter of a million dollars in medical debt. “Because of the scholarship fund and everything St. Francis was willing to do for us, I get to come here and absolutely love it,” Kinsey said.
A current class representative, member of the Quick Recall and Math League team, a varsity bowler and forward on the field hockey team, you’d never guess by looking at Kinsey that she was diagnosed with aplastic anemia and once told she wouldn’t live past age five.
“It’s a blood cancer basically,” Kinsey said. “But, with cancer you have bad cells in your body; with what I had, you just produce no cells at all. On Mother’s Day of 2002, my parents were told I had four weeks to live. Then I underwent 27 months of chemotherapy. There was no match in the world for me.”
In a frantic search to save Kinsey’s life, her two mothers, Audrey and Karen, delivered a daughter via surrogate who would serve as a donor for Kinsey should she be a perfect match. Against the odds, Kinsey’s sister Teagan was a match, but miraculously, at the 11th hour, Kinsey suddenly went into remission and no longer needed a donor transplant – a case so puzzling, her story was printed in The National Enquirer.
Despite the miracle, six years later, Kinsey would again fight for her life. “When I was 11 my heart stopped seven times in one day,” Kinsey said. “I have a really weird immune system. I got a virus and it went a little overboard and attacked my heart. It stopped three times in Sam’s Club and we later switched to Costco,” she joked.
Health scare No. 2 was defeated by emergency surgery, but Kinsey’s fight wasn’t over, as half a year later, she was diagnosed with graves disease due to a hyperactive thyroid.
“A lesser cookie would have crumbled,” said Kinsey’s mother, Audrey Morrison. “She fought everything.”
Once she overcame her third health scare, Kinsey ran a mini marathon to prove nothing could stop her. Now a clean bill of health, she has since become an experienced public speaker – another task not commonly completed by many 15-year-olds.
“Because of my crazy, long health history I do public speaking,” Kinsey said. “It’s awesome for me because I enjoy doing it but also I get to spread my message to so many different people in so many different facets.”
In her speeches, Kinsey teaches the importance of living life to the fullest, or having “a bucket list state of mind.”
“You can tell it’s kind of changed my perspective,” Kinsey said. “I have so many things on my bucket list because I do plan to live till I’m 105 so I can see three centuries, but there’s also that urgency of I’ve got to get it done now.”
Before high school is over, Kinsey would like to graduate with a GPA above a 4.0, get accepted into her dream college, and speak before congress. “That’s my biggest public speaking goal, but whether that will happen before high school or later, I would really like it.”
She has also pledged a million dollars to Kosair Charities and Gilda’s Club, where her mom, Karen, is president and CEO. “I’m thinking somewhere I’m going to become a millionaire,” Kinsey laughed. “I haven’t really planned that out yet. But my mom always says, ‘You’ll never be a millionaire because you’ll give so much of it away.’”
For now, Kinsey can check off competing in a Jeopardy-style match against super computer Watson at the 2011 Idea Festival and playing a wicked stepsister in the Kids Acting Against Cancer production of Cinderella. That, and all she’s involved with at St. Francis, including her speaking engagements, one of which will be at Imagine 2012.
“Triple-booked is like my middle name,” she joked. “I try to do the best I can and prioritize everything. I put intensity into everything I do. (I live with) a mixture of fear all the time but also just this intensity to live no matter what and not let any fear hold me back.”
Louisville’s premier art auction, Imagine 2012, will be held Friday, Feb. 3, at the Henry Clay.
The fundraiser will showcase art and jewelry from well-known and popular artists both in Louisville and around the world. Funds from the event’s live and silent auctions will go toward the independent, private school’s scholarship fund. Forty percent of St. Francis High School students receive financial aid scholarships.
Vicki Rogers, Lite 106.9 midday host, will emcee the event, along with chief meteorologist at WAVE-TV, Kevin Harned, who will also act as auctioneer for the live auction.
Guests can arrive at 6:30 p.m. and enjoy a seated dinner and participate in both the live and silent auctions, or arrive later at 8:30 p.m. for the silent auction and dessert reception.
Tickets for the Imagine 2012 live and silent auction dinner are $150 per person. Dessert reception tickets are $75 per person. Tickets can be purchased through the school’s Imagine 2012 reservation line at 502.736.1044 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.