TREMONT, Ill. — When Donnie Rice, Tremont High School Special Education Teacher, heard the news about the passing of one of his former students, 20-year old Kaitlyn “Katie” Guard, he said it shocked him.
“We found out about the loss of Katie Tuesday night when I was at the basketball game, and it was really a shock to my system,” Rice said.
Rice said the very next day he spoke with Tina Johnston, the school psychologist, and the two came up with the idea to do something special for Guard’s family in the aftermath of her death.
“Her and I were having a discussion that it would be great to do something for the family and to remember Katie in this way and to really help them in their time of need,” Rice said.
He said once he confirmed the idea with the school’s principal, Sean Berry, he immediately went to Tremont First National Bank and started the Katie Guard Memorial Fund.
The fund was designed for members of the school to donate for Guard’s funeral expenses. However, this idea soon turned into an opportunity for Tremont’s entire community to contribute.
“The community is so loving, gracious, always giving and thinking of others,” Rice said. “And that’s really what this was intended to do.”
Debra Crowe, Katie’s maternal grandmother and adoptive mother, said this act of kindness has left her floored.
“We’re just so blown away by the outpour for Katie,” Crowe said. “Not realizing how many lives she had touched in her short 20 years.”
Crowe describes the experience of losing Katie in a car crash, Tuesday, as both devastating and eye-opening.
“It’s just something that no parent ever wants to go through,” Crowe said. “But it has really opened my eyes to just what a wonderful kid she was.”
Guard graduated from Tremont High School in 2018 and went on to pursue a nursing degree at Illinois Central College.
Rice said if anyone wants to make a donation to Gaurd’s memorial fund, they can either go directly to Tremont’s First National Bank or leave a donation at the high school.
Guard’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Preston-Hanley Funeral Homes & Crematory in Pekin. Visitation will be from 9 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday at the funeral home.