A renovated library at Notre Dame Academy has given students a place where they say they feel close to Addie and Baylor Kirchgessner, their young classmates who were killed in a traffic accident in December of 2020.
The renovated space includes new flooring, shelves, furniture, paint and wallpaper and a newly built reading space for younger students called Addie and Baylor’s Tree House.
The $50,000 renovation was funded by the Addie and Baylor Kirchgessner Foundation. Lauren and Matt Kirchgessner created the foundation in 2021 in memory of their children who attended the school located at 1927 Lewiston Drive. Addie was a first-grader and Baylor was a pre-schooler at the time they were killed while vacationing in Panama City Beach, Fla.
The library is the “heart and the hub of the school,” said Daivie Kay, who serves as the school’s recruitment and development director. The space is used by the whole Notre Dame community — parents visit during book fairs and teachers come there before they have to be in their classrooms, she noted.
Now that the library has been renovated in memory of Addie and Baylor, it’s also become a space where students say they feel connected to the children.
Kay said Landon Campos, a second-grade boy, told her that when he’s in the library he feels like the children are there with him.
“We feel their love in that library,” said Kay.
Addie and Baylor’s love of reading and the family’s gratitude for Catholic education made their decision to fund a renovation project for the library an easy one, said Lauren Kirchgessner, a member of St. Lawrence Church.
“I went to Catholic school, St. Paul, first- through eighth-grade. Just being raised Catholic and being in the community, we knew it was the right decision to make,” she said.
The work on the space began in March of 2021, but the pandemic slowed its progress, she noted. The renovated library was dedicated last month.
Kay said the gift of a renovated library will benefit the school for years to come.
“It’s hard to find the words for such a labor of love, to be offered such a gift from such a tragedy,” said Kay. “It’s a gift that will impact all in the school.”
Another gift from the foundation to Notre Dame is the school’s certified therapy dog, an Aussiedoodle named Luna.
Lauren Kirchgessner described her children as “super personable” and they had many friends. When they died, the students at Notre Dame “suffered a great loss. We wanted the dog to be there to comfort them,” she said.
Kay said Luna does that every day.
“She’s made a powerful impact on our school in the wake of all that sadness,” she said.
According to the foundation’s website, the students have received gifts from the foundation and, in turn, they’ve worked to help further its mission to “enrich the lives of children and the heroes who inspire them.”
Addie loved school and Baylor loved fire trucks, so the foundation’s work benefits schools and first responders, according to the site.
Notre Dame Academy students have held book drives that have contributed to the close to 7,000 books the foundation has collected, said Kay.
The books have been donated to schools, including St. Paul and St. Agnes schools, and to organizations, such as the local chapter of the Reach Out and Read program at Norton Children’s Hospital, said Lauren Kirchgessner.
One of her hopes for the foundation moving forward, she said, is to fund the renovation of a different school’s library each year.
To learn more about the Addie and Baylor Kirchgessner Foundation, visit https://www.addieandbaylorfoundation.com/.