Running for Katy’s life (and yours, too)

FAIRMONT — Kaitlynn Jade “Katy” Newbraugh, by the accounting of all who knew her, was a top-achieving kid who cared about her family, her neighbors and the place she called home.

She carried close to an A average in high school and at Fairmont State University, where she studied forensic science.

That was on top of volunteering at Fairmont’s Soup Opera community kitchen, along with other local and national outreach organizations.

Once, she accompanied her grandmother, Gina Dixon, on a disaster relief trip to Alabama, helping to deliver supplies and to offer clean-up work after a spate of treacherous weather.

Get Katy behind the wheel of a Go-Kart, Dixon said, and watch as the comic intensity ensued.

Her granddaughter almost always took the checkered flag, she said, “even when she was racing the boys.”

Katy, she said, was caring, empathetic, altruistic, optimistic and just plain outgoing.

But there was something else.

She was also hurting.

On Jan. 24, 2021, she took her own life.

Dixon was reeling, but she was also determined to find a purpose.

“So many people struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts,” Katy’s grandmother said.

“They need to know that they aren’t alone. They need to know that it’s OK, to not be OK. That’s why we’re doing this.”

Fairmont State, on April 27, is hosting its third annual “Kickin’ It for Katy” 5K Run and Walk, with the companion event, “Stomp the Stigma,” to immediately follow. Registration is $30 and opens at 9 a.m. The race starts at 10 a.m.

Visit the Kickin’ It for Katy page on Facebook for all the particulars.

Meanwhile, the race, which is now on the official running circuit, is also part of the nonprofit organization Dixon helped form – which raises money for a scholarship in Katy’s name to students studying forensic science at Fairmont State.

Right now, that total is nearly $25,000, which is the dollar amount needed to permanently endow the scholarship, Dixon said.

It’s about a legacy, she said, but it’s also about life.

Lives not lost to suicide, specifically.

Katy was among 48,183 people in the U.S. in 2021 who died by suicide, according to numbers culled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

That came out to one death, by a person’s own hand, every 11 minutes, the CDC said.

Further, the organization notes 1.7 million adults, which is roughly the population of West Virginia, also attempted suicide that year.

Dixon can’t bring her granddaughter back, she said – but she can work to save other granddaughters.

Through it all, she said, Katy’s life-force can’t be dimmed.

“She did more living in her 17 years than most people do their entire lives,” Dixon said.