Kylee's Dancing Angels helps cancer patients find their 'happy place'

A nonprofit inspired by a Fallston woman who lost her battle with cancer helps others find their 'happy place'

Kylee Webster never lost her zest for life, fighting through more than 15 rounds of chemotherapy, 30 rounds of radiation and several major surgeries. She walked across an Ocean City bridge in July 2013 to support a group raising funds for cancer.

Three months later, the 34-year-old Fallston woman died from the rare sarcoma cancer she was diagnosed with in 2011.

"She is my younger sister, but she definitely showed everybody how tough she was," Allan Webster said. Along with their mother, Darlene, Allan Webster set up a nonprofit foundation after his sister's death.

In keeping with Kylee's dynamic spirit and love of dancing, Kylee's Dancing Angels offers financial support to help other sarcoma patients find their "happy place."

Sarcoma causes tumors in soft tissues like muscle, fat and blood vessels. More than 12,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed in 2016 and almost 5,000 Americans are expected to die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. About 50 percent of all sarcoma patients survive five years, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Last year, Kylee's Dancing Angels gave out $28,000 to more than 35 people across the country, letting each one use $500 to $1,000 to fulfill a personal passion.

"It's just a way for us to kind of help everybody, because that's the kind of person she was," Allan Webster said about his sister. "She was always happy and always kept her spirits up."

The foundation is getting sponsors for its second annual fundraiser, a May 20 shrimp and bull roast at Columbus Gardens in Nottingham, Baltimore County.

People have used the funds for everything from taking a special bike trip to a year's worth of yoga classes to buying a go-kart.

The first person helped by the group, Claire Koreck, of New Jersey, took a trip to Kings Dominion and stayed at a lake house, Webster said. A boy from Washington got a season pass to a Seattle theater. Another girl, who was bedridden, wanted satellite TV in her bedroom.

One more unusual request was from a 16-year-old boy from Clarksville, Tenn., who used the $500 to build, with his dad, a new chicken coop.

"Since I was little, I always had chickens, I guess, and I always loved them," Levi Grubb, who has been in remission from sarcoma for about a year, said. He now has about 15 chickens and sells eggs and chicks.

The new coop gives him more room to store the chickens, and "it's much more clean, much more space," he said.

Levi said he was contacted by Kylee's Dancing Angels on Facebook after the Websters heard he had sarcoma.

"I am very thankful for them, because, being sick, it's hard to be happy all the time," he said, adding going through chemotherapy made him really tired.

Getting a gift like that "is one of the things that can turn your day upside down," he said. "I am truly grateful for them, to have someone reach out and want to do something for me. It's kind of emotional, honestly."

'Every day, she got up'

Like many cancer diagnoses, Kylee Webster's came out of the blue, her brother said.

"It was such a weird cancer she got. None of us in the family have it at all," Allan Webster, who is seven years older than Kylee, said. "We were all obviously out of our minds. We didn't know what to do."

Kylee was determined to beat the disease. She had grown up in Fallston, attending Youth's Benefit Elementary School and Fallston Middle and High schools before earning bachelor's and master's degrees from Towson University.

She went on to become a drug addiction counselor who positively affected many lives, Allan Webster later found out.

"I had people reaching out to me, saying, 'I was hooked on heroin and your sister saved my life,'" he said.

She also loved to dance, performing in her first dance recital at 2 years old and continuing to take jazz, tap and ballet classes throughout her life, later teaching jazz classes to children.

After her diagnosis, she began working with the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults and stayed focused on going to the Johns Hopkins Hospital for treatment, including getting three major surgeries.

"Every day, she got up; I don't know how she did it, but she went down to Hopkins," Allan Webster said. "To be honest with you, it was such a whirlwind."

She went into remission for a while, even going to a Ravens game where she seemed fine. But the disease suddenly returned, and about a week later, Kylee Webster passed away, he said.

After his sister's death, Allan Webster was deciding the best way to keep her family way. Although both he and Kylee did well in school, it "wasn't, like, our thing," so scholarships did not seem appropriate, he said.

He described his sister as a "people person," who was outgoing and energetic.

"She was a fun girl; she liked going out, liked to dance," he said. "She was the type of girl who had so many friends from different groups. She was friends with everybody."

'Keep her spirit alive'

Kylee's Dancing Angels has become "a way for us to keep her spirit alive," he said. Allan Webster, a prosecutor in Baltimore County, still lives in Baldwin, while his mother, a Bel Air resident, is retired and able to spend more time working on the organization.

"I never want to feel like it's a business or be stressed by it," Allan Webster said.

He hopes the nonprofit can raise more awareness of sarcoma, as well as make the lives of its victims at least a little better.

"The cancer is so rare our ultimate goal is to shine some light on it, so it gets the attention that breast cancer gets," Allan Webster said about his vision for the group.

Each applicant is asked to send in a photo of them holding a picture of Kylee standing by the ocean, her arms outstretched.

Those photos help Allan and Darlene Webster keep the joy in Kylee's life alive in their lives, too.

"We didn't think it would take off like it did," he said, noting they have already gotten 15 to 20 applicants since January. "We knew we wanted to do something, and it's a double-edged sword, because you do see a lot of sick people."

"It's outweighed by [the fact that] people are so happy," he said. Getting the cards from people "is great. It gets me through my tough days. It's just nice to get a picture of a little kid we have helped. It helps me just keep everything in perspective and that we are not the only ones who are dealing with this."

For more information on Kylee's Dancing Angels or to get involved with the organization, visit www.KyleesDancingAngels.org or their Facebook page.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
30°