BROOKSVILLE - Karlie Smith is busy.
Class president. Straight-A student. Two-sport varsity athlete - three if you consider cheerleading a sport - in volleyball and tennis.
Then there are the school clubs. Trust me, it's easier to list the clubs that the Bracken County High School junior-to-be doesn't belong to than all the ones she does. She's not just rÃ©sumÃ©-building, either. Karlie works in her clubs, as the county-wide fund-raiser she organized for the Relay for Life (cancer) showed.
That doesn't even take into account Smith's singing and playing the guitar. Her twice-a-week church attendance, the Monday nights of church volleyball or her regular pen pal in Haiti.
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"I like the busy life," she says. "I've always been busy."
Yet beyond the striving of a driven 16-year-old, in the past 18 months an additional motivation has lain been beneath Karlie's unceasing schedule.
The grief is not quite so sharp, the pain of loss not so totally in the forefront, when one is always busy. Donald Paul Smith never really left Bracken County High School.
A standout basketball player for Coach Jarvis Parsley in the early 1960s, Smith earned his BCHS diploma in 1964, married his high school sweetheart in 1966, did a stint in Vietnam and then came back home to raise a family.
Donald Paul and Wilma Jean Smith's four children all tended to be active at school. There is a 19-year age gap between the oldest, Jeanna (now 35), and the youngest, Karlie (16).
That meant that Donald Paul had family reasons (the middle children are Wade, 30, and Haley, 22) to be around Bracken school events for literally decades.
"He was a huge supporter of all Bracken County athletics," says Jenny Ray, the school principal. "He never missed a game with one of his kids."
There was a special connection between Donald Paul and his youngest daughter. "They were very close," Wilma Jean Smith says of Karlie and her father. "With her being the baby, they had an extra-special bond."
As she grew up, Donald Paul gave his daughter tips on how to train for sports (he advocated five minutes each night of constant jumping up and down to build leg muscles). He instructed her on the best strategy for locating her serve in volleyball.
For years, father tried unsuccessfully to cajole youngest daughter to break from family tradition (Wilma Jean and both her older daughters were cheerleaders) and give up cheering to play basketball.
Mostly, be it leaning on the fence while she played tennis or in the basketball stands as she cheered, Donald Paul was there.
"Every game, every competition, he was there," Karlie said.
Until the day, midway through Karlie's freshman year, when he wasn't there any more.
After a large gathering of extended family, Christmas Day 2006, had ended with Donald Paul and Wilma Jean alone and taking stock of the day.
"He remarked to me that night, we'd had a wonderful day," Wilma Jean says. "And we had. We had no idea that was his last Christmas, no idea that was his last day."
Before night fell on Dec. 26, Donald Paul was gone.
As a favor for family members, he was towing a car along a winding country road.
A driver of a van crossed the center line and hit Smith head on.
Wilma Jean and Karlie were baby sitting Jeanna's four kids.
They saw the medivac helicopter fly over the house, never dreaming the event that drew the copter would have direct relevance on their lives.
Eventually, the call came.
"Are you sitting down?" the family's then-minister, Evan Meyer, asked.
"Is it Donald Paul?" Wilma Jean asked.
He was 60.
Now, Karlie says "at least they say it was instantaneous, that he didn't suffer. That makes it a little bit easier."
Then, a teenaged girl suddenly without the father she adored found the finality of a family making funeral arrangements crushing.
"Seeing the caskets, that was really hard to do," Karlie said. "I lost it." When school resumed in 2007 after the Christmas break, Karlie was there on the first day.
Sometimes, she'd find herself standing at her locker in tears.
"You have your moments, that's just how it goes," Karlie says. "All my friends were there for me. They'd come and get me and give me a hug and just walk with me."
Yet the girl who was already involved in everything at Bracken County didn't pull back one iota in the face of her family loss.
The Bracken County High branch of the Future Business Leaders of America were looking for a charitable project. As vice president of community service, Karlie took the lead.
She had the idea of using a boys' basketball game as a fund-raiser for those with cancer. Bracken school officials agreed.
Karlie called intra-county rival, Augusta High, and secured its participation, too. Thus was born the Bracken County Shoot For A Cure.
Normally, when the two archrivals meet, the gym is rigidly split between Bracken blue and white and Augusta orange and black.
On the night of Karlie's fundraiser, both sides of the bleachers were decked out in pink Shoot For A Cure T-shirts. "A sea of pink," Karlie says.
Even the teams warmed up in the pink shirts.
Cancer survivors were publicly recognized at the game. Counting concessions and a cornhole tournament, some $3,000 was raised for donation to the Bracken County Relay for Life.
"Karlie spearheaded the entire event," says Ray, the Bracken County principal. "It was a neat community thing, just really, really neat."
After it was over, Augusta boys' basketball coach Robin Kelsch sent Karlie an e-mail saying that, at a time when many would be feeling sorry for themselves, she was taking the initiative to help other people.
Even now, Karlie gets a kick when she sees someone wearing one of those pink Shoot For A Cure shirts around Bracken County.
Largely due to a missionary that visits her church, Karlie has also taken a keen interest in the country Haiti. She corresponds regularly with Michelove St. Jean, an 18-year old Haitian pen pal she's never met.
Karlie is taking French, the primary language in the impoverished country. Next summer, she hopes to be part of a church mission trip to the Latin American country.
"I just have a passion for Haiti," she says. "When I get older, I want to do a lot of mission work and then hopefully go down there quite a bit."
Before that, she wants to follow in the footsteps of both her older sisters and become valedictorian of her Bracken County graduating class. Her plan is to attend Northern Kentucky University.
Even with all her activities, Karlie can't always stave off the grief of loss, of course.
Sometimes, she'll be cheering at ball games and find herself scanning the stands for her dad.
When about to serve the volleyball, she can all but hear Donald Paul's voice. Serve it down that line a couple of times, then when you get them expecting it there, take it down the other line.
"You can't push it out of your mind. I think about it every day," Karlie says of her father's death. "All you can do is push on. Keeping going and not have a lot of down time"
Karlie Smith is busy.
"Now I try to do things for my Dad," she says, eyes misting. "Make him proud."