Karson Whitesell lived a life dedicated to service, her mom says. Even after the teen's death, she's continuing to touch people's lives.
Karson's mom, Debbie Whitesell, started a charity after the 19-year-old was killed Jan. 22 in what police said was a "random" attack.
"The days after Karson’s death, I started a nonprofit called Karson’s Kompassion Project," Whitesell said. "The mission of the organization is to spread peace and love to those in the shadows."
And for the month of May, Whitesell is collecting stuffed animals to donate in honor of Karson and Det. Mike Doty, who died less than a week before Karson.
Karson was working at the Peach Stand in Fort Mill when she was fatally shot by a 28-year-old Lancaster man, police say.
Doty, a York County Sheriff's Office detective, died Jan. 17 after he was shot a day earlier in what police said was an ambush by a domestic violence suspect.
"We decided to partner with Det. Doty’s family because they were killed within a week of each other," Whitesell said. "And they both had passion for kids, and they both were just good people who wanted to do good for others."
Karson, whose friends say she wanted to "change the world," spent a summer volunteering in Swaziland and South Africa. After her death, the community raised money to continue her work.
Whitesell said she's planned a trip to Africa to see the impact of the community's donations in July, along with Karson's boyfriend and some friends.
But Whitesell also wanted to help people in her community. So Karson's grandmother suggested collecting stuffed animals to donate to first responders, to give out when helping children in crisis.
"We also wanted to do something domestic," Whitesell said. "There are international needs but there are also needs in your back yard."
Whitesell said Karson knew she had a good life.
"Karson knew that she was my world," Whitesell said. "There was no unfinished business with her. I would encourage everyone to feel that way in all their relationships. Say how important these people are to you, because you never know what’s going to happen."
And because they had a good life, Whitesell said she taught Karson to give back.
"She was my only child and my parents only grandchild, so she didn’t want for a lot in her life," Whitesell said. "So it was important for me to teach her how good her life was and in doing so, do for others. You have been given much, so you should share."
She said that message "just became who she was." Someone who was always willing to give.
"There’s so many more lives that have already and will continue to be blessed as a result of my daughter’s life and death," Whitesell said."
Whitesell said Karson's Kompassion Project isn't slowing down. She isn't putting limits on what the charity will do.
"I just want to see where the need and the Lord takes me," Whitesell said. "I just want to do good for others. It is the only thing I have left to provide service to my daughter. It’s the only thing I have to continue to bring honor to her name and to not let people forget her.
"I won’t ever let people forget her."
Want to donate?
Karson's Kompassion Project is accepting new 8 inches or smaller stuffed animal donations at several locations, including the Peach Stand, Illumine Church, Manchester Creek Community Church, Friendship United Methodist Church and all Comporium retail locations in York, Rock Hill, Indian Land and Fort Mil during the month of May.