H.S. football fundraisers for playground in honor of little girl

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GREENDALE (WITI) -- Before most high school football games, fans indulge in a pre-game tailgate, but before the Franklin-Greendale game last week, both sides came together for a "blackout" -- combining the tailgate and T-shirts for a good cause.

When two teams meet under the Friday night lights, the mission is always to finish the night as a winning team.

However, in the game between Greendale and Franklin, the goal wasn't about winning. It was about raising money to build a wheelchair accessible playground in Franklin, in honor of a little girl who passed away.

Kayla, whose trademark was wearing a butterfly pin in her hair, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age four, and was also diagnosed with epilepsy -- among other health conditions.

Although Kayla was non-verbal, she had several friends. However, her mother Shelly Runte had trouble finding places for play-dates.

"She never spoke a word. She was nonverbal, but she had friends who loved her and they would come to our house and make cakes and cupcakes. We were looking for other avenues for them to meet. Kayla wasn't able to go to their houses. It wasn't accessible with her wheelchair. As we looked around, we looked for playgrounds and playgrounds have wood chips and sand," Shelly said.

Shelly would drive Kayla and her friends all the way to Port Washington, to use an accessible playground.

Shelly later decided she wanted to bring one to the Franklin area, and began fundraising in 2011 -- forming "Kayla's Krew."

When Kayla's health grew worse, the project was placed on hold.

After Kayla passed away in August of 2012, Shelly knew it was time to put the project back in motion.

"It was about a couple months after. I was a full-time care giver and I thought, 'what am I going to do 'and I dusted off the project and I thought 'let's do this. Let's bring this play ground to the south side of Milwaukee into Franklin and offer it to families that can really utilize it," Shelly said.

Shelly's neighbor, Larry Acker, a retired Greendale High School teacher, is a member of Kayla's Krew, and was the driving force in getting the project going.

"I live in Franklin for 30 some years and I taught in Greendale for 35 years and Greendale and Franklin seldom play each other in any sport, so when I saw Franklin and Greendale played each other in football this year, I thought 'this is a great fundraiser opportunity.' Both great communities, both support their teams. I got in touch with Franklin's AD and Greendale's AD and both school districts, both communities have been really supportive. Everybody I asked said 'absolutely what can I do,' and it turned out to be a pretty good event," Acker said.

Kayla's Krew raised over $7,600 from T-shirt sales and the pre-game tailgate, and Shelly was pleased with the efforts of both schools.

"To see two communities come together and the energy behind both school districts come together to really support Kayla's Krew is a blackout in and of itself," Shelly said.

Although Kayla is no longer here, in southeastern Wisconsin, the playground will be a place where people can go to remember her.

"Her spirit lives on. I see little butterfly hair clips that were selling at all of our fundraisers and I see them in the hair of little girls, and it warms my heart," Shelly said.

Two other high schools, St. Thomas More and Martin Luther are having a blackout football game for Kayla's Krew this Friday night.

CLICK HERE to find Kayla's Krew on Facebook!