From friends to family

When Kylee Gardner, a junior double-majoring in music and anthropology, first arrived at Kansas State University’s band camp, she didn’t expect that it would lead her to gaining 500 new friends-turned-family.

When choosing where to attend college, the band was the deciding factor that led Kylee to K-State. Kylee plays the mellophone, which is similar to the French horn, but built for marching. In high school, Kylee and her twin brother were the only two mellophone players, but K-State has 24 “mellos” in the band, which was extremely exciting to Kylee.

In the fall of 2020, Kylee’s dad started to experience health issues. After a month-long stay at the University of Kansas Medical Center, he was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (CIDP), an autoimmune disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the nerves. With further medical tests, it was discovered that he also had primary seminal vesicle adenocarcinoma, one of the rarest genitourinary cancers, with her dad being only the 61st case worldwide.

While Kylee has often considered taking a break from school to help her family, the commitment to finishing her degree and the support provided by the band are two of the things that have empowered her to stay at K-State.

“I came into this semester very weary of how I was going to manage it all, but if anything, band has made it more possible,” said Kylee. “Dr. Tracz and my professors have been extremely kind and understanding. My section is comprised of some special folks, and when things get too heavy sometimes, I have them to fall back on 100%. Goodness knows, I wouldn’t be the same without this group; they make me laugh, cry, cry from laughing, and give me every opportunity to take a break from the hard things.”

In addition to the support of the band and her professors, Kylee has also received the Marching Pride Scholarship, which has helped her continue her education. This scholarship allows her to invest time in her family, without having to stress over finances.

“Between school, work and everything life has thrown at my family, this scholarship has provided unquestionable relief,” said Kylee. “It also has allowed me to continue going to school, and without this, I wouldn’t have the wonderful support I currently have. The people who donate do it out of an act of selflessness and love for helping others. I can only marvel at the donors’ generosity and will forever be grateful for their help through these challenging times.” 

To create opportunities for students like Kylee to finish their degrees at K-State, please visit The Pride of Wildcat Land’s online giving page or contact Frank Cummings via email or at 785-775-2094.

*First published in October 2021.

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Frank Cummings

Frank Cummings Director of Development - Arts and Sciences