How a smile goes a long way

Proud parents Rich and Jamie Gondeck of Kirkville said they gave everything they possibly could to make their daughter Kourtnei, 16, a good person. What they didn't know was that she would go beyond their expectations by exploring philanthropic avenues.

"I'm just elated," Jamie said. "She's amazing."

Last summer Kourtnei, who will be a senior at Chittenango High school this fall, worked at Fyler Road Convenience Store so she could save money for backpacks and school supplies for countywide children in need. This summer she wanted to do something special for a close friend of her younger sister Morgan, 9.

The close friend, Jacob Olmsted, 10, has become a permanent part of Kourtnei's heart. She wanted to give Olmsted something that he would enjoy, something that would brighten his day.

Within the large yard behind his home there is a swing set and lots of room to play, but Olmsted outgrew the swing set that is now unsafe for him to play on.

Olmsted, who will be in fourth grade at Bridgeport Elementary in the fall, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when he was about six months old and although he uses a wheelchair, he can walk with the help of family and friends. On his own, Olmsted holds a passion to play within his eyes that is apparent to all that know him.

Because of his lively spirit and desire to play alongside his two brothers John, 8, and Joshua, 7, Kourtnei wanted to make his playtime more enjoyable.

About a month ago she sent out e-mails and posted a call for donations on the Internet. What Kourtnei thought would take months to accomplish became a reality a few days after she sent out her request to the community.

"I was pretty surprised to get the call," she said.

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