Kindness Matters, a foundation created by the late Katharine (Katie) Monson in 2017, raises money for brain cancer awareness and research, while offering leadership opportunities for Fullerton students and promoting kindness in our communities.
The foundation focuses especially on the youth of FJUHSD, a place that Katie herself, as a former FUHS student, found her own leadership opportunities.
“Because she had trouble at first in high school, ASB made her feel important and find her place. She really wanted other kids to feel like ASB can [sic] help them too and that it could also be a place for them to feel comfortable,” said Emily Monson, Katie’s younger sister and FUHS senior. “That’s why she wanted to really surround her foundation around leadership because that’s what helped her through so many things.”
The foundation now also commemorates the life of Katie, who passed away from brain cancer on Fri., Sept. 21, 2018.
During Katie’s senior year at FUHS, she served as the ASB President. After graduating in 2016, she began attending UCLA to study political science. Katie was diagnosed at the end of her freshman year at UCLA. Though Katie was unable to continue attending in-class lectures, she was able to finish the year through online courses. When she pulled out of school indefinitely, she began working through her foundation, with the help of ASB advisor and math teacher Ms. Kelly Virden.
“Katie went above and beyond for the school, not just through ASB but just by the way she was. She didn’t hesitate to volunteer or get involved in something that would benefit the school or community. She reached out to everyone regardless of popularity or interest. She impacted so many people just by being kind and true,” Virden said.
Her experiences at FUHS spurred Katie to make high school enjoyable for every student.
“When we beat Troy her sophomore or junior year, that was an impactful moment because you saw the whole campus involved. How do you keep that kind of spirit going through the campus? She tried to take that moment and tried to put it into a whole bunch of moments for a whole bunch of different students, and that’s pretty cool,” history teacher Mr. Mike Muhovich said.
While Katie’s involvement in ASB helped foster a more encouraging environment at school, she created relationships with her peers and even teachers, changing their lives for the better. For FUHS Activities coordinator Mrs. Erin Black, Katie exemplified ‘Kindness Matters,’ inspiring Black’s family.
“[She] truly was like another daughter for me. We bonded during our first year together in ASB and kept that bond going even after she graduated. She was a great friend and a wonderful role model for my girls, and really taught us all to be kinder people,” Mrs. Erin Black said.
“She created a family, especially in ASB, and I am so thankful to have been a small part of that,” said Caitlin Williamson, a 2018 FUHS graduate.
But for Emily Monson, her relationship with Katie was different.
“Well, she’s my sister. She showed me how strong she was. That even if you are going through something, having a negative attitude was the wrong way to go about it,” Monson said. “She always had a smile on her face, and I think that she made me a stronger person.”
For 2018 ASB President and graduate Emily Ong, Katie’s perseverance and compassionate qualities encouraged Ong herself and everyone around her.
“Even amidst her cancer, she stayed thankful for what she did have. She still spent all her energy caring for others. I remember one time, she had just gotten home from the hospital and still sent me the nicest message ever on my birthday,” Ong said. “I [was] so thankful and in awe of her compassion. She was someone you could always count on and who always put others first, even in little ways.”
Katie was an inspiration to the community, but it was her genuine, kind-hearted, caring qualities that made her a girl everyone just loved.
“Katie surprised me at the Tackle Cancer game after she graduated. I was having a difficult time that year because my mom was sick, and I was feeling down. I really didn’t want to go to the game, but Virden and Katie conspired together to get me to go and Katie surprised me there. I can’t even begin to tell you what that meant to me,” Black said.
For Williamson, Katie reached out to her not only as a leader, but a friend.
“Katie was always the person I text[ed] for advice whether it be for advice for classes, ASB, or even my social life. She encouraged me and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. She would always send me these long text paragraphs that would fill my heart with joy.”
Last fall, the FUHS Wall of Fame inducted Katie for her impact on the school. While Katie’s life did indeed influence hundreds of others during her time at FUHS, she was, above all, a teenager.
“I had her as a sophomore in AP European history, sixth period. I found out that she was the middle child. I saw a lot of the
middle child, and that she felt overshadowed all the time by big sister, little sister. Yet, as a student, Katie stood on her own and did really well,” Muhovich said.
When he first met Katie, Muhovich admits that she was a completely different person than the outstanding figure many of us revere her as now.
“Here’s a young sophomore, kind of silly, kind of goofy, trying to figure it out. I don’t know if I could have said her sophomore year that she’s getting into UCLA, that’s one heck of a challenge,” Muhovich said. “But at the end, you weren’t shocked by it. [She was] beginning to look forward, being very mature and finding big responsibility using ASB.”
Everyday after school that year, Katie and her friends would stay after class, talking and joking with Muhovich.
“Her and a couple other students would always stay after and be silly teenagers. I would try to give them some guidance about where to go, but it was mostly talking about movies, Netflix, ASB,” Muhovich said. “I got to see that aspect of her and I’m glad I got that, because you had no idea in that moment that she was a kid who was going to pass so fast.”
Former ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott passed away from cancer in 2015. In his book Every Day I Fight: Making a Difference, Kicking Cancer’s Ass, he wrote: “When you die, it does not mean that you lost to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.”
Although Katie passed away at the age of 20, she exuded and exemplified Scott’s quotation.
Emily Monson and her family hope to continue the traditions Katie’s foundation and supporting the values Katie believed in.
“It means a lot to us because it’s something that we want to carry on for her since she can’t. It’s something that we will continue to do as long as we can, as long as there’s enough to go around. We will continue to keep giving and helping people like Katie wanted to,” Emily Monson said.