INDIANA—Kai Paul Hrabovsky was smart, athletic, involved in activities and a young man taken far too soon.
“The pain of losing our beloved son and the way in which he was killed will always be in the front of our minds and cannot be forgotten. There has to be good that comes from this tragedy,” said Jennifer Ponish, Kai’s mom.
Kai was killed in a hit and run accident on May 14, 2016, in Pine Township, Indiana County. The 16-year-old was walking home from a party when he was hit. He was a sophomore at Homer-Center High School.
“We want to keep Kai’s name alive in the community. As people move on with their lives, they will naturally think of him less and less,” said Ponish. “Our goal is to remind people what an amazing person he was and ‘pay it forward’ by encouraging in others the behaviors that Kai demonstrated regularly.”
Ponish said because of the generosity of those in the community, they decided to create a scholarship in Kai’s honor.
“After his death, we thought the best way to continue to memorialize him within the community and for many years to come was to set up a scholarship to support kids like him. Not only do we get to encourage in others the values that Kai demonstrated but we are able to keep his name and legacy fresh in people’s minds as we fundraise for the fund and distribute scholarships to his peers each year.”
“The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies is honored to work in partnership with the Hrabovsky and Ponish families to establish a meaningful legacy for Kai Paul through a memorial scholarship fund benefiting students at the Homer-Center School District,” said Paula Hencel, Donor Services Officer.
Kai’s mom said he was an amazing kid that could make anyone laugh with a personality that set him apart from others.
“He was so funny. Even as a toddler, he had such a refined sense of humor and would have a group of adults laughing so hard our sides hurt. He was also a really good friend. He didn’t let a lot of people into his mind and heart, but he was always there for everyone else. He would see people hurting and he would reach out to them, offer a listening ear, or be a friend when they needed it most. He was able to transform himself to be whatever the person needed at the time, but without compromising himself. And if you told him a secret, he kept it that way; he was an excellent confident to everyone,” said Ponish.
There’s not a day that goes by Kai’s family doesn’t think of him. There’s always something that reminds them of their adventurous son.
“He always wanted to have a good time and loved going on adventures. He was always biking around Homer City, Blairsville, and Indiana, dragging people along with him to explore abandoned buildings, the boonies, the local creeks, and streams, and basketball, basketball, basketball. The Wildcats were his family. He wasn’t a star, and mostly played JV, but he made the team as a 9th grader and kept his spot in 10th grade. I remember the crowd going wild when he got his first varsity point; everyone knew how hard he worked to improve his game. His coach told me a story at his funeral how Kai was to dress varsity one game and declined. He told the coach that one of the 9th graders that hadn’t had any playing time had a better JV game and deserved to dress varsity. Who does that? Kai. He was a team player and really cared about people. I could go on and on about him,” said Ponish.
Which is why it was important to the family to create something in their son’s memory to give back to the community he loved.
“We really want to thank everyone that supported us during the days and weeks after Kai’s death. The community really rallied their support and so many people gave monetary donations to help get the fund established. Without their love and support, we wouldn’t be where we are now.”
“We want people to know that it exists and is legitimate. We also want people to know that although not endowed, we plan to sustain the fund as long as possible with additional contributions through private donations as well as community fundraisers,” said Ponish. “Also, we are most closely focusing on the students graduating in the next three years, as those are the immediate peers of Kai. But we plan to continue to support one graduating senior each year thereafter.”
When asked what she thinks her son would say about a scholarship fund in his name, Ponish smiled. “Honestly, he would probably shrug it off as no big deal. He didn’t like a lot of pomp and fanfare. But he would be pleased because he knew how proud we were of his accomplishments and that this would make us happy.”
Kai’s legacy scholarship fund is just one of many that the Foundation has helped donors to establish. You can help this fund and more than 500 others by going to our website to learn more.
The scholarship is one way Kai’s family is able to give back, and his mom said he was able to make another difference before he died. The 16-year-old got his learner’s permit six weeks before he died and elected to become an organ donor at that time. After his death, donations were made through the Center for Organ Recovery and Education (CORE).