"Superwoman" Kylie Doniak's Inspirational Story Reaches UW
May 27, 2012
By Sarah Jennings
SEATTLE - Just a few short months away from graduating from the University of Texas, 22 year-old Kylie Doniak was living the life of a typical college senior--excited and scared about the future while enjoying the little time left as a college student.
She had just wrapped up her fourth and final season as a midfielder on the UT Women's Soccer Team, finishing her impressive career 10th all-time for goals, 7th in assists, and 11th in total points, along with being a three-time All Big 10 Academic 1st team selection. During her senior season, she was the leading scorer on the team despite missing four games with a knee injury. A smart girl with a beautiful smile who had the whole world in front of her had no idea that her life and the lives of those around her would drastically change in an instant.
On the night of February 3rd, Kylie was walking with friends in downtown Austin. As they were crossing the street shortly after 2 am, a drunk driver ran through a red light and crashed into Kylie and two others. Without stopping the driver continued driving, but was eventually chased down by a witness on a motorcycle who was able to apprehend him until police arrived. Kylie was taken to the hospital with severe injuries and was listed in critical condition. Along with head trauma, Kylie shattered her tibia in two places, broke her collarbone, suffered broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and fractured two vertebrae.
After a few weeks the accident Kylie's condition had stabilized and she was moved to a rehabilitation center near her hometown of Chino Hills, Calif. During rehab she made incredible progress each day as she relearned how to speak and control her body movements. She has since returned home to live with her parents and continues to undergo physical and speech therapy daily. Her tremendous recovery in a few short months has amazed even her doctors and her therapists.
Her inspiring story has touched many around the country, extending its reach up to the University of Washington. UW Women's Soccer incoming freshman Ally Brahs is from a nearby area in southern California and plays on a well-known premier team with Kylie's sister Makenzy, the FC Slammers. Ally has been a member of the Slammers since its inception ten years ago, and met the Doniak's when Makenzy and Kylie joined the club a couple years later. Over the years their families became very close. Ally's mom Cindy says that as soon as the accident occurred, Ally and a two of her teammates wanted to do something to help the family. They remembered that Kylie wore a piece of jewelry that said "Everything is possible when you walk by faith." They ordered one thousand orange bracelets with "KD15" on one side--representing Texas' colors and her number while she played there--and "Walk the Faith" on the other. They have since ordered another thousand bracelets and Cindy says that the outpouring of support from friends, family members, coaches and players from across the country has been tremendous. Ally wears her "Walk the Faith" bracelet every day and even wears one around the ball of her soccer cleat while she plays.
Cindy shares a story about the first Slammers game Kylie was able to attend on April 15th to watch her sister Makenzy play.
"Mak scored a goal and immediately looked up with a big smile and waved to Kylie in the stands. There was not a dry eye to be found. After the game the opposing team even came over and wished Kylie well."
Cindy says that Kylie has been to several games since and even though she still gets confused, she's always smiling and saying "Thank you so much." During a recent game she was emphatic about the ref making an incorrect off-sides call--a good sign that Kylie is getting back to her old self.
Almost immediately after the accident, friends and strangers alike showed their support by making donations and organizing fundraisers. Numerous fundraisers in Austin, Texas and Kylie's hometown of Chino Hills, Calif. were created to help raise funds for Kylie's medical expenses, including donations of proceeds from "Kylie Doniak" nights at multiple Chili's locations in both states. The support continues to pour in months later.
On May 12th a seven-on-seven coed soccer tournament called "Kickin it for Kylie" was held at her former high school in Chino Hills, Calif. with all the proceeds going towards her recovery. Kylie was able to attend and the event was a huge success. In the journal, Kylie's sister thanks everyone who attended, participated, and volunteered and wrote that it is a day that her and her family will never forget.
As a benefit for Kylie, a College ID camp named "Coaches for Kylie" will be held at Cal State Fullerton on June 2nd and 3rd, with coaches volunteering their time and money to participate in the clinic. Hosting the camp is California head coach Neil McGuire, who contacted coaches around the Pac-12 in hopes of inspiring their participation. UW assistant women's soccer coach Jim Thomas was quick to offer his assistance.
Thomas, like many, is impressed with Kylie and her astounding recovery after being so severely injured only few months ago.
"From where she was to where she is now is miraculous," said Thomas. "The prognosis is long but it is incredibly bright, it's amazing how strong she is." He adds, "Kylie and her family have a huge amount of faith, and they really have stayed positive."
Thomas is looking forward to coaching at the camp and getting the opportunity to help Kylie and her family. Thomas calls that area a "hotbed" for soccer on the west coast so he expects it to attract a good amount of high quality players. The camp will have a morning and afternoon session depending on age, and will include a playing station, a training station, and a classroom portion. Eighty-five percent of the proceeds will go towards Kylie's medical expenses, while the other 15 % will benefit Platini Soaf--a regional director for the Olympic Development Program--who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Here is the link to the flier: http://www.calsouth.com/data/Downloads/ProPlus/Coaches_for_Kylie_FINAL_05-03-12.pdf Kylie and her family have stayed strong throughout the ordeal, despite the extremely difficult and unpredictable situation they were faced with. Kylie's sisters Makenzy and Alyssa detailed each painstaking day and every twist and turn in her recovery for the first few weeks in an online blog they started the morning after the accident. (http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/Kyliedoniak). The blog exhibits the difficulty of the journey, but also illustrates the astounding progress she made each and every day.
Four days after the accident Kylie opened her eyes and as her body continued to heal she became more responsive as the days went on. Despite the brain swelling, tests showed Kylie had suffered no further brain damage and the doctor's found that the blood supply to the brain was not restricted--which created less of a chance for actual brain functioning damage. Kylie battled infections and eventually had a rod put in her leg and a plate in her collarbone, but was still making tremendous progress every single day. Almost two weeks after the accident her brain pressure had stabilized and she began to steadily heal.
Almost two full months after the accident, her sister wrote, "Her progress has been so amazing and every day my family and I get to see her push herself to get better. It is extremely inspiring."
The day she returned to her family home in Chino Hills her entire neighborhood decorated their front yards and put up "Welcome Home Kylie" posters. In the journal her sister expresses how truly touched her and her family were by this outpouring of love their neighbors showed to Kylie and their family.
On April 25th, Kylie was awarded the Beverly Kearney Texas Tough Award at the 38th Annual University of Texas Women's Athletics Awards Show. Beverly Kearney is a Hall of Fame women's track and field coach at Texas. In 2002 she was critically injured in a car accident that took the life of two of her friends. The doctors told her she would never walk again, but Kearney beat the odds and four months after the accident stood up out of her wheelchair with a cane during an infield presentation at the Texas relays. Kearney was at the banquet to present the award to Kylie, who appeared via video from California to accept the award. Her face was beaming with a smile as she thanked her friends, coaches, and teammates and vowed to be back in Austin again soon. It had been just 3 months since Kylie was severely injured, and it was amazing to see how far she had come. Her story brought tears to all who were watching.
A few days after the accident, a friend of Kylie's posted a Youtube video that featured a collage of pictures of her playing soccer at UT, her hanging out with her friends and words of encouragement and inspiration. The music playing in the background is Alicia Key's "Superwoman." The video ends with a message to Kylie: "Stay Strong Superwoman." Throughout the last few months Kylie has done just that. She has proven that she is a superwoman and if you keep fighting you can come back from anything. The "Walk by Faith" Campaign started by Ally Brahs and her teammates appropriately titled its Facebook page "Superwomen Walk by Faith." In the most recent post in the journal on their caringbridge site, Alyssa wrote that Kylie can't believe how many people she has impacted. They simply told her, "Ky, you have no idea."
The last few months have been a life-changing journey for Kylie and her family, and there is still a long road ahead. However, the progress she has made in a small period of time is nothing short of incredible.
Cindy Brah's spoke highly of the Doniak's, calling them a nice and loving family and expressed that their courage and fighting spirit has been a true testament to their faith--making Kylie and her family an inspiration to us all.
You can make donations at any Wells Fargo Bank location, Account #2860066170 FBO Kylie Doniak.
Check out Kylie receiving the "Texas Tough" Award: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=am-AzMDUTs4
"Superwomen Walk by Faith" Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/#!/KylieDoniak
"Superwoman" Tribute Video to Kylie: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtHI1KKSydo