ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- By now, the Nyack High School graduation parties are wrapped up and many of the newly minted diplomas are hanging in shiny frames.
But one recent grad is still hard at work, not for college or fun money. Karl McGinnis is raising money to help cover the funeral expenses of his girlfriend Kailana Nicole Koether, 17, who didn't make it across the stage on Friday night to collect her diploma.
Kailana died on Thursday, June 22, just hours before she was supposed to graduate. Police and the medical examiner are not sure why the fun-loving blonde didn't wake up. Tests are ongoing, as family and friends wait for answers, including McGinnis.
While he waits, McGinnis is helping the family raise money to pay for Kailana's funeral expenses by starting a GoFundMe page to "help soften the financial blow" the family is facing.
On the page, McGinnis says his girlfriend "taught the world what it means to live every moment to the fullest," and how her joy for life made the lives of others better.
He also tells the story of one of his last mornings with Kailana and how his home was a mess with a large hole in the ceiling because of a piping issue. The contractor had left behind a white board and pen to write things on.
While McGinnis made breakfast for the two, Kailana took the marker and wrote a note on the board. It was a simple message "love eachother," with a heart underneath.
He said they laughed and ate breakfast, not knowing the message would be one that he would cherish for the rest of his days.
"Kailana's note is more important than ever," he writes. "When tragedy strikes and communities are torn apart, it is our love for eachother that keeps us going. One minute at a time, one step at a time, and one day at a time."
As of Monday, the fund, which has a $15,000 goal, had raised almost $9,000. Any money left over from the funeral expenses will be donated to the World Wildlife Foundation in Kailana's name.
Nyack High School is helping in its own way. They are offering bereavement counseling to friends, students, and community members who need help dealing with Kailana's passing.
No appointment is necessary. Counselors will be available from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday and Tuesday at the school.
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