PUNXSUTAWNEY — The Punxsutawney community is keeping a high school student’s legacy alive through a full-kourt fundraiser in her honor.
Two years ago, three best friends were enjoying a convertible ride on a sunny summer day, never anticipating one of them would lose her life.
On July 21, 2016, Kally Graham of Punxsutawney was thrown from the car after the driver lost control on a gravel road. The other two young women survived after enduring some injuries, but will carry the loss of their friend forever.
Kally was 16 years old and heading into her junior year of high school, with plans of attending nursing school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Two summers later, Kally’s family, friends and community supports are constructing a plan for “Kally’s Kourt” – a tennis court that will be placed next to the Josh Smith Memorial Playground and Thomas L. Barlette Skate Park in east end Punxsutawney.
Kally’s mother, Kristin Graham, said Josh was a good friend of Kally’s brother, and died just a month before her daughter did.
The Smith and Graham families are now joining to construct a full-fledged complex for the community, with a tennis court, playground and skate park all in one location.
Her daughter loved to play tennis from the time she was little, Graham says. Since there is currently no public tennis court in the Punxsutawney area, they thought this was the perfect way to honor her legacy.
It started out with a scholarship in her name – The Kally Graham Memorial Scholarship, and has since turned into a huge community effort in honor of the sweet teenager. The scholarship was awarded to a student in Kally’s 2018 graduating class.
“We wanted to do something more permanent to keep her name out there,” her mother said.
They were hoping to have a tennis court installed at the high school, Graham said, but the plan wasn’t seen through. It turns out, it was meant to be, since Kally’s Kourt will be right next to Josh’s playground.
Kally and her sister, who were just 11 months apart, also attended tennis camp when they were younger. Graham hopes to offer tennis camps and lessons at Kally’s Kourt in the future.
“We wanted to keep her legacy alive, and also do something to benefit the community,” she said. “We want it to be a place where families can go.”
Graham is also aiming to generate interest in tennis as a sport and an enjoyable outlet for people, hoping more will head down to the park and pick up a racket. If given a court to play on, children and people may even discover it’s something they love and want to pursue in the future.
They just received their permit to go ahead with the court, she said. In order to complete the construction, they are aiming to raise another $60,000. They are about halfway there with their fundraising goal, and the plan is to hopefully break ground on the project this fall.
In addition to the Mahoning Shadow Trail, the Josh Smith Memorial Playground and Thomas L. Barlette Skate Park, Kally’s Kourts will be the finishing touch to complete the complex, Graham said. Each piece of the puzzle is in memory of a local person who left an impact.
The single court will be a lighter purple color with green around the outside, standing out from a traditional tennis court.
“Nothing would make us all happier than knowing that Josh and Kally’s friends, and future children, as well as local kids and adults, would have the opportunity to enjoy playing tennis at Kally’s Kourt.”
The public can help keep the future bright in Kally’s name by contributing in any way possible – whether through monetary donations or just being a supportive shoulder to lean on.
Anyone interested in helping can send donations to the Kally Graham Foundation, 1417 Graffius Ave. Ext., Punxsutawney, PA 15767 or S&T Bank, 232 Hampton Ave., Punxsutawney, PA 15767.
“The community has been amazing,” Graham said. “We have had so much feedback, and we are so appreciative. We’ve had so many generous people, and so much support.”