She sings, she draws, she loves shopping and she has perfected the art of the “puppy dog face.” She also has formed her own charity and hopes to build it into an official nonprofit next year.
She’s also 11.
Katelyn Livingston is a die-hard BYU fan with a unique story. Because of difficult family circumstances, the sixth grader’s mom asked her half-sister Janeé Livingston to help raise Katelyn when she was three months old. Since then, weekends and holidays have been spent with Janeé, a BYU Master’s of Public Administration and pre-Ph.D. student. This relationship helped Katelyn form her strong BYU ties.
“We didn’t have a babysitter so she just came to class with me,” Janeé said. “She has been on campus since she was three months old.”
Janeé’s mother Enid (and Katelyn’s “adopted grandmother”) pointed out that Katelyn even knew the names of the buildings as a young child.
Being raised on-campus didn’t just contribute to Katelyn’s love of BYU. It also helped her develop a love of service.
This pattern of giving started when Katelyn was young. Enid remembers working with Janee’ to locate materials to donate to a refugee population. Three-year-old Katelyn had just received a Cinderella doll for Christmas and was adamant that it be given to the refugees.
“She came bopping in the room and said, ‘I give,'” Enid said. “She’s always been like that. She likes to help people and always wants to do something.”
Last year, Katelyn worked with Janeé to start Katie’s Wish List, a small movement aimed at helping the enormous refugee population in Utah.
According to Janeé, the idea came about in 2012 while Janeé was helping Katelyn’s older brother Michael complete service at homeless shelters and other organizations. Katelyn always wanted to go with them and help, but she was frustrated that most places would only let people help who were ages 16 and up. So, she developed a solution.
“Why isn’t there something for kids like me?” Katelyn said. “Well, I’m going to create one.”
Katelyn then set out to collect clothing, toys and books from community members. With Janeé’s help, Katelyn solicited donations on Facebook, through email and by asking ward members for help. They gathered eight garbage bags full of materials to donate.
Katelyn stayed up all night with her friend sorting, folding and preparing the clothing for donation. She then worked with the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City to deliver goods to a population of Burundi refugees. Leftover materials were donated to a homeless shelter in Provo.
Katelyn hopes to obtain four more bags than last year’s eight and fill them with clothing for all ages and sizes, shoes, toys, books and hygiene items. In 2014, she hopes to use Janeé’s expertise to make “Katie’s Wish List” an official nonprofit she and her friends can run. Those interested in learning more can email the organization at .
Janeé hopes this experience will help Katelyn continue to develop a lifelong habit of service.
“One of the things we talked about when we sat down as a family is, ‘We’re not millionaires, but we still have the capacity to make one person’s life better,'” Janeé said. “I’ve really seen these kids do that. They’ve really helped make kids’ lives better. And it’s not because they have a never-ending trust fund. It’s because they sacrifice.”