Cerebral palsy claims life of NKHS sophomore

POULSBO — In life, there are those who inspire, teaching valuable lessons in strength and courage.

North Kitsap High School sophomore Kara Charlot was an educator in this respect but not in the traditional sense.

Kara died with her family by her side Nov. 25 at Children’s Hospital in Seattle after nearly a year of battling infections and complications from her lifelong fight with cerebral palsy. She was 16.

Kara’s mother Sherry believes everyone is on earth to serve a purpose. Her daughter’s job was to teach people the virtues of patience, compassion and acceptance.

“She did her job well,” Sherry said.

Kara was diagnosed with cerebral palsy before her first birthday and her disability was severe. Her body was confined motionless to a wheelchair for the span of her life, but her mind continually broke barriers.

“She’s paved the way in everything that she has done,” Sherry said. “And it’s always been with a smile.”

Kara loved sports, her mother said, especially fast-paced action sports. She watched them on TV and in person, always enjoying the excitement. She enjoyed watching professional wrestling Monday nights, showing extreme interest in her favorite wrestler Goldberg, Sherry remembered.

She also enjoyed the high-energy sports of football and basketball and participated as part of the Poulsbo Junior High Spirit squad.

“Her love of sports and loud sounds led us to the idea of the cheer squad,” Sherry said. “The coaches were amazing.”

Kara was accepted as a full member of the squad, which welcomes anyone willing to make the commitment to the team. She cheered in competitions and parades and even attended the NCAA national cheer camp in Ellensburg, Penn. with her teammates and friends.

“I think it was her world,” Kara’s cheerleading coach, Sandy Corniel said of what cheerleading meant to Kara. “When she was there, it gave her an identity beyond the wheelchair; it allowed the whole school to see her as the person she was.”

“The kids are wonderful,” Sherry said of the team. She said Shelby Wilke, Kelsea Kimbel and Alice Pittack were especially good friends of Kara. “I don’t think those girls understand quite how special they are.”

In cheerleading you could find the girls huddled around Kara’s chair whispering and laughing, communicating with her and — they would later admit — scouting out boys, Sherry said. The girls were there not only in practice but at Kara’s birthday parties every year held at All-Star lanes.

“She loved to bowl,” Sherry said.

After Kara’s death, Wilke and her family went bowling in Kara’s memory to remember one of the many good times they’d shared.

Though she could only communicate through her big brown eyes, Kara touched many hearts and taught many people. She lived life in an disabled body, but her love of living shown through her actions. She will always be remembered as a portrait of acceptance and strength.

Kara battled her illness for her entire life, fighting until the end to enjoy all that she could. She endured doctor’s visits, surgeries, pokes and pain. Last Febraury, she underwent a “spinal fusion” surgery which straightened out her spine which at the time had taken the form of the letter “C.” The doctors were successful with the surgery and had added three inches to Kara’s height, but the damage to her internal organs had already been done. It was too much to overcome and she spent much of the last year of her life in a hospital bed. However her previous achievements overshadowed the end, Sherry said.

“Being involved in so many things, Kara taught us truly not to judge a book by it’s cover,” Sherry said. “She taught that communication can be heard by more than just ears, also by the eyes and heart.”

Being involved in so many things impacted the North Kitsap and Poulsbo Junior High Communities as well. Sherry said she and her family has received an enormous outpour of support from the community and especially wanted to thank her neighbors for all that they’ve done.

A memorial service for Kara will be at the Abundant Life Four Square Church in Bremerton from 3-5 p.m. Dec. 4. In lieu of flowers - Sherry is allergic - donations can be made to the Kara Charlot memorial fund at Frontier Bank.

“We find solace in the fact that we know that she is not having to go through any more pain,” Sherry said.

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