Kayla's Hope Foundation aims to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health

Kayla's Hope Foundation aims to eliminate stigma surrounding mental health

Kayla Lehmann was an old soul.

The St. Charles teen loved books and writing, hoping to one day be an editor.

Kayla also had a gift for music. She started playing the violin in fourth grade and continued to hone her skills at Thompson Middle School and St. Charles East High School. She even joined the Sinfonia Orchestra with the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra.

But Kayla didn't just have an ear for classical music. At home she loved to jam out to alternative rock, listening to Panic at the Disco, Nirvana and Green Day.

She enjoyed traveling, hanging out with friends and watching University of Kentucky basketball games and Notre Dame football games.

The Lehmann family of St. Charles - Hans, left, Kayla, Hannah and Ruth. Kayla died in 2018 at age 15. Her family started Kayla's Hope Foundation to help others suffering from mental health issues. Courtesy of the Lehmann family

She had a goofy sense of humor and a creative imagination. And she was always there for her friends and sister, Hannah.

In 2017, Kayla was diagnosed with severe depression. Even though she had the full support of her family and friends, Kayla struggled with reaching out for help. The girl who was known for helping others could not ask for it herself.

Kayla died April 7, 2018, at age 15.

Her parents, Hans and Ruth Lehmann, started Kayla's Hope Foundation in honor of their daughter to make sure other people fighting depression know there is help available - and always hope.

“The main mission of Kayla's Hope Foundation is to help remove the stigma of mental health issues while assisting those who struggle and offering hope to those who need it most,” said Ruth Lehmann in an email.

“It's OKAY to not be OKAY, but it is so important to seek help and to feel comfortable doing so.”

In order to raise funds for mental health counseling, school programs, and college scholarships, the foundation will host Kayla's Hope Week April 10-16.

There will be special events, an auction and social media prompts for anyone who would like to donate to their cause, and especially for those who may be suffering in silence.

Jaymie McGrath, a volunteer with Kayla's Hope Foundation, talks about Kayla's Hope Week and how you can help.

Q: What is the Kayla's Hope Foundation? Give a brief overview of what the organization does and its history.

A: Kayla's Hope Foundation was created in 2018 by the Lehmann family in loving memory of their daughter and sister, Kayla Brooke Lehmann (April 5, 2003-April 7, 2018).

The foundation has been established to help remove the stigma of mental illness, provide financial support to mental health organizations, and scholarships to high school seniors with a passion for music, literature, or psychology.

Painted rocks offering encouragement for mental health awareness for Kayla's Hope Foundation. Courtesy of the Lehmann family

Kayla had electric blue eyes that saw the good in everyone. She was an old soul with a silly spirit and wild imagination. Kayla loved to create and listen to music and read more books than most people do in a lifetime.

She wanted more than anything to be happy. Kayla's depression was isolating, although she was surrounded by friends and family. It was painful, although she was unconditionally loved. It was hard to talk about, although 300 million people face it worldwide.

Q: Where do the majority of your proceeds go?

A: Since its inception, Kayla's Hope Foundation has raised nearly $117,000 to help fund and achieve our goals:

41% goes to the Chapelstreet Church Shepherd's Heart Ministry to help provide mental health counseling to those who can't afford it.

25% is given to Suicide Prevention Services to help educate and train through school presentations and aid in adolescent counseling.

17% of the funds contribute to the St. Charles East High School Hope Club, Orchestra Department and the Kindness Rock painting initiatives throughout St. Charles Community Unit School District 303.

17% is earmarked toward St. Charles high school scholarships, with four annual scholarships granted to local graduating seniors with the intent to study music, literature or psychology.

Q: Tell us about the upcoming Kayla's Hope Week 2023.

A: Kayla's Hope Week is the BIGGEST fundraising event of the year for Kayla's Hope Foundation. It has opportunities to support mental health through individual and community involvement.

We kick off the week with a Masters Golf raffle and, shortly after, open our online silent auction at

Students from Bell Graham Elementary School took part in Kayla's Kindness Rock Garden Party in a previous year promoting kindness and mental health awareness for Kayla's Hope Foundation. This year's party is Wednesday, April 5. Courtesy of the Lehmann family

The family-friendly rock painting event, called Kayla's Kindness Rock Garden Party, is from 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, at the Fox Mill Clubhouse, 3N550 Vachel Lindsay Drive, Campton Hills. These rocks will go into the garden that was created in Fox Mill last year in memory of Kayla to share with anyone who passes by.

The Hope Blooms Celebration will culminate the week and the auction on Saturday, April 15, from 6-10 p.m. at The St. Charles Country Club 1250 Country Club Road, St. Charles.

Daily mental health prompts and pictures are posted throughout the week on the Kayla's Hope social media pages. Facebook: KaylasHope03; Instagram: @kaylashopefoundation; Twitter: @kaylashope2022. Follow to participate.

To find out about Kayla's Hope Week, visit

Q: How can readers help if they can't participate in the week's events?

A: Get involved with Kayla's Hope Week by visiting and choose your favorite way to participate! There's something for everyone!

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: Mental illness is a battle that someone in your life is going through right now. It might even be yourself. It's a battle worth talking about. It's a battle that we want to normalize. It's a battle where there is help and HOPE.

Kayla's Hope Foundation

What: Kayla's Hope Week

When: April 10-16

<b>Special events</b> April 1: Masters Golf Raffle sale opens - Purchase a raffle ticket to be randomly paired with a Masters Tournament golfer. Winner receives $500. Raffle tickets cost $25

April 5: Kindness Rock Painting Party: 4-6 p.m. Wednesday, April 5, at the Fox Mill Clubhouse, 3N550 Vachel Lindsay Drive, Campton Hills

April 10: Online auction opens at

April 11-14: Reach out to a friend or loved one, do something for yourself, be creative, take a trip, choose to do an act of kindness.

April 15: Hope Blooms Celebration and end of the auction, Saturday, April 15, from 6-10 p.m. at The St. Charles Country Club, 1250 Country Club Road, St. Charles.

<b>Social media</b>Join Kayla's Hope Foundation's social media pages during this week for daily mental health prompts:

Facebook: KaylasHope03

Instagram: @kaylashopefoundation

Twitter: @kaylashope2022


Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.