On February 14, 2009, 9 year old Savannah Kleinhans lost her life in a tragic ice fishing accident. Savannah, her father Danial and her best friend Tiffany went onto Lake Winnebago to visit friends who were participating in the annual Sturgeon fishing season. While traveling from one shanty to another, Danial’s truck broke through the ice. Although the truck was not very deep they were unable to escape the vehicle. By the time rescue personnel arrived on the scene the three of them had been submerged for more than 30 min. Only Tiffany survived the accident.
God had blessed my daughter with the gift of giving. She was always thinking of and doing things for others. There was no obstacle or difficulty that stood in her way when it came to being kind to someone. One memory that sticks out was the Christmas of 2007. Savannah was visiting different friends during her school break and she insisted on giving them gifts that she had received as gifts from family. I told her that she didn’t have to do that and that I could take her shopping for new gifts but she insisted on giving the gifts she had received. I was so proud of her for putting others needs before her own.
In the days and weeks following the funeral I received many poems and heartfelt letters from Savannah’s teachers, babysitters, friends and parents of her friends verifying what I already had known. Stories of how she helped her friends when they were sad or got hurt on the playground and how much they would miss her kindness. One parent wrote to me saying that; she had known people 10, 20 even 30 years who did not touch her life in the way that Savannah did.
About a month after the accident I was awaken in the middle of the night with the thought “pay it forward”. I truly believe God was calling me to continue Savannah’s legacy and honor the gift he had given her. I know that her and I often discussed how important it was to help others and God knows that people are in more need now than ever before in their lives. 1 Peter 4:10 tells us: As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.
Savannah had begun her legacy and with the help of countless friends, family & supporters we are determined to continue her legacy.
It is my hope that we can educate, empower and inspire children to be a “blessing in the lives of others” and allow them to leave a legacy of their own.
Justine Katze (Savannah’s Mom)
“I’m only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something, and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do that something I can do” ~ Helen Keller