February 03, 2021
It's National Catholic Schools Week and we're celebrating Kaylee Castillo, a remarkable 6th grader at St. Raphael Catholic School, who was inspired by the example of Saint Teresa of Calcutta to help the poor in our community. Her big heart inspires others to always do good in every situation.
One of the many gifts of attending Catholic Schools is the opportunity to learn about the saints. When Kaylee Castillo was asked to research a saint for All Saint’s day as a 2nd grader in 2016, she chose Mother Teresa of Calcutta because she knew she was a brave and courageous woman who helped the poor and the sick. It was while she was working on this homework assignment that El Paso became a city of refuge for many immigrants. Inspired by the example of Mother Teresa, Kaylee thought about the suffering of the immigrant children and how they probably felt scared and lonely. Kaylee did not want toys for Christmas, she wanted to help other children instead. She shared her concerns with her parents and together they came up with the idea to give each child traveling with immigrants a teddy bear. Kaylee loves teddy bears and she knew the bears would provide comfort during a time of uncertainty in a new and foreign environment.
Family and friends supported Kaylee’s desire to provide children with a a warm embrace and "Bear-a-thon" was born. She bought candy with her allowance and in two weeks raised enough money to purchase 100 teddy bears. She used the donations from family and friends to purchase 78 more bears. Jared Jewelers heard her story on KVIA News and donated 100 more teddy bears. Kaylee began her endeavor at St. Mark Catholic Church with the support of Msgr. Arturo Bañuelas, who serves as pastor. He gave her the opportunity to personally give the teddy bears to the immigrant children as they began arriving at the parish. The Bear-a-thon became so popular that it was extended to the Child Crisis Center, area hospitals, The Center Against Sexual and Family Violence, and Dame la Mano Family Crisis Center in The Segundo Barrio.
Photo Credit: CBS 4 Local News
Kaylee’s Bear-a-thon continues to this day—she sells her arts and crafts to raise money to buy more bears—but Kaylee is adapting to the needs of the world as the Vatican Council II asks of every Catholic. Kaylee’s latest focus is on police officers. She sent 1,000 cards to El Paso Police officers with the help of her family and friends to provide encouragement during a time when they were being spoken about negatively. In exchange, Kaylee received a surprise parade at her home. Many officers participated to thank Kaylee for her generous gesture.
Kaylee has been invited to give motivational speeches at the Ysleta Independent School District and she invites children and adults to strive to always do good in any situation. She says she often thinks, What would Jesus do?
Kaylee hopes to become a Neurologist and help children with Down Syndrome and Autism to lead better lives. Her message to other kids is that prayer and gratitude are what have helped her become closer to God. “Pray more, thank God for all the things that you have, stop complaining about the things that you don’t have. God does so much for us but we don’t even realize it.”
Kaylee Castillo is 11 years old and attends St. Raphael Catholic School. She's the daughter of Jose and Rosie Castillo.
“I think this is the wonderful tenderness of a woman’s heart: to be aware of the suffering of others and to try to spare them that suffering, as Mary did. Do you and I have that same tenderness in our hearts? Do we have Mary’s eyes for discovering the needs of others" — Mother Teresa