Op-Ed

Her tears gave others hope against child abuse

A steady, baritone voice echoed in the House chamber, crowded with representatives, staff and guests gathered in the gallery to recognize the importance of the fight against child abuse.

"Katelynn Stinnett." The name ran among the marble-toned pillars and sailed into the vaulted ceiling.

"Katelynn Stinnett," the voice announced once more; and the name coaxed sniffles, then tears from several guests.

Crickett Lanham-Lee sat in the front row of the gallery, her face lowered. She flinched, just slightly, each time the name was read aloud. Soon, the voice fell silent, and Crickett lifted her face; tears trickled over her cheek, down her chin.

Crickett's tears. Katleynn's name. For more than two years, they were intertwined, joined in a solemn service on a frosty, December day in 2008.

Katelynn Elizabeth Stinnett, was a tiny, blonde-curled toddler with blue eyes and a wide, angelic smile. In late November 2008, while in the care of a baby-sitter, her father's roommate, Brian Crabtree, something horrific occurred. Katelynn, only 2½ years of age, was beaten and raped. Crabtree was charged with the crime.

Suffering from numerous broken bones and loss of blood, little Katelynn succumbed to her injuries a week later, on Dec. 3, 2008, at the University of Kentucky Hospital.

Crickett, hearing of this horrible tragedy, served with an honor guard consisting of fellow, compassionate bikers, who remained at the little girl's casket every minute, every hour, every day, until the funeral was held. All day, and through long hours of night, they stood next to the tiny, white casket, adorned with white roses. They remained at Katelynn's side through the funeral, a few days later.

Assisted by BikerOrNot.com, Crickett helped organize a fund-raiser to help with funeral costs and purchase a beautiful headstone. Bikers across the country learned of this tragedy and selflessly emptied their pockets.

Crickett's tears were endless, drawn from a bottomless pool of hurt and compassion for abused children everywhere. She soon resolved to raise awareness of child abuse by sponsoring a memorial bike ride, in Katelynn's honor. Interest grew across the country.

Within months, Crickett had organized the Katelynn Stinnett National Memorial Ride, where chapters from almost every state rode on the same minute, same hour, same day to raise awareness of child abuse.

Over $150,000 was raised the first year, all donated to child-abuse prevention charities. In the summer of 2010, the Second Annual Katelynn Stinnett National Memorial Ride was held.

Never stopping, never resting, Crickett was never satisfied just to be sad, to mourn. Tears never quenched her compassion for those in need.

Last Thanksgiving, a local charity was in need of food baskets. She coordinated the delivery of 280 holiday meals. Shortly after last year's devastating mine disaster in West Virginia, she organized a benefit for the families of the miners killed.

In February, she was among those honored for her work on child-abuse prevention. Leaving the capitol, Crickett was not satisfied. The day was still young, people were in need.

She and several members of the Borrowed Angels Charity Riders drove to the Veterans Administration hospital in Lexington. Several weeks earlier, they learned of the need of fresh fruit for the sick and elderly. They organized a drive to gather fresh fruit for those veterans.

She was always giving.

From a few tears spread on the grass of a tiny grave more than two years ago, to national child abuse prevention benefits, from countless other acts of charity, to a day when a wet snow joined those tears and soaked the Capitol lawn, Crickett lived and breathed compassion.

Sadly, one week after the name Katelynn Stinnett echoed through the House chamber, Crickett Lanham-Lee, just 40 years of age, was slain in her Greenup County home by an unknown assailant.

Though she is gone, her passion for helping abused and neglected children lives on. On June 18, the Third Annual Katelynn Stinnett National Memorial Ride will be held across the country.

Crickett's tears, they were many. They soaked the ground and softened the hardened path laid out for those in need. Today, her footprints mark a path, joined by the tiny feet of so many abused children she sought to help.

  Comments