Will Mathews ~ 5/27/96 - 8/15/10 ~ 14 yrs old Louisiana
Although small in stature, Will had a heart and zeal for life much larger than any other we know. He was the best brother to 3 younger brothers. Will loved the Lord and life along with everything it had to offer. Will had a contagious smile and loved doing things with his family and friends. There was nothing in Will's 14 years of life here on earth that he wouldn't attempt to do. He loved a challenge. Just a few of Will's favorite things were playing baseball, watching the Texas Rangers, playing soccer and football, he enjoyed riding his dirtbike and loved to snowboard in the winter and wakeboard in the summer.
Will began having symptoms just 1 week after wakeboarding in Louisianna. Doctors diagnosed him with encephalitis. He was placed on life support just 5 days later.
Not a day goes by that we don't miss our son greatly, but just have to put our complete trust in God and rest in the fact that we will all be together again.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength Philippians 4:13
The Kyle Lewis Amoeba Awareness Foundation
has been established with the goal of informing families of the potential danger of Naelgeria Fowleri which exists in fresh waterways around the world.
Through education and awareness, our hope is to save lives and heartache for other families.
Please share Our Stories with others.
~ Kyle Cares and So Do I ~
Philip Thomas Gompf ~ 8/5/99 - 8/17/09 ~ 9 yrs old Florida
Philip was passionate about understanding the way things work. He loved to work with his hands, building things & taking apart Dad's old circuit boards. He loved to read and write; he had a wonderful writing voice and ironic humor that made his Mommy grin. He was a fan of the Beatles and Monty Python. He had big emotions and a kind heart and wanted to make things right in the world.
Philip died in two days, a week after a wonderful weekend of wake-boarding with his cousins on Lake Arietta. His doctors diagnosed meningitis but couldn't determine what kind, and it had progressed with shocking speed. The medical examiner declined to autopsy, so we requested one. The diagnosis of Naegleria Fowleri meningitis arrived a month later, and our hearts broke again. We donated Philip's organs to LikeLink where we learned that his kidneys saved two ladies; he would have been so very pleased. We miss you so, little bear.
Timmy Lalis ~ 7/29/96 - 7/11/01 ~ 4 yrs old Florida
Timmy was born in California and moved to Florida at the age of 2. He had a passion for trains and could spend all day setting up his toy train tracks throughout the whole house. He loved playing soccer and was the tallest member on his Under–5 soccer team “The Purple Guys”. He was a kind boy who truly knew how to have fun and laugh.
Timmy was ready to start Kindergarten, but he suddenly and unexpectedly died just weeks before his first day of school. He played in a children’s play water fountain and became sick five days later with a high fever and severe headache. He fought a painful battle against the amoeba for 2 days in the hospital until he died 11 days after being infected. Through his autopsy results we learned that Timmy’s brain had been highly infected with the Naegleria Fowleri amoeba.
There is not a day that goes by that we don’t think of him.
We miss you, Timmy.
Christian Strickland ~ 5/3/02 - 8/5/11 ~ 9 yrs old
Christian was a very adventurous and full of energy 9 year old boy. He loved living on a farm with many animals & a pond to fish in. He played basketball, baseball, karate and had a passion for fishing.
Christian was at a fishing camp for a 2nd year when he came in contact with the amoeba that took his life. He and two boys were roughhousing and dunking each other. Two weeks went by before he showed symptoms. We decided to donate his organs but then took one more hard blow to us & his donors when the hospital decided not to use his organs because his unknown disease status (meningitis & encephalitis). It was confirmed to us by the health dept the following weekend that it was Naegleria Fowleri.
The amoeba Naegleria Fowleri is common and Kyle Cares strongly believes the infection it causes is not as rare as assumed. We believe many cases go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed every year given the lack of information known about the amoeba, the speed that the infection takes a life, and the amoeba not being looked for in spinal fluid or autopsy.
All of these beautiful children, and many more, had many things in common, but the first being they all swam in warm fresh water days before they experienced the symptoms and horrible effects this amoeba causes.
We appreciate all the families of these angels for sharing their stories with us for awareness.
John 'Jack' Herrera ~ 2/16/95 - 8/15/07 ~ 12 yrs old
Handsome Jack's family say he taught those around him the meaning of kindness and grace. He woke with a smile and went to be with a smile. Jack embraced life with humor and an indomitable spirit, enjoying lacrosse, basketball and above all else, his family.
In the summer of 2007 Jack attended a summer camp on Lake LBJ in Austin, TX. He enjoyed swimming in the lake along with all the other campers; however Jack became very ill while at camp. While in the hospital, he had many people by his side fighting for him and fighting against this amoeba.
Since then, Jack's parents were instrumental in getting the summer camp to start handing out nose clips to the campers and had some warning signs put up on LBJ.
Elizabeth Simms Hollingsworth ~ 5/11/00 - 7/6/10 ~ 10 yrs old South Carolina
Liza was a funny, silly, and active little girl who loved to draw, play guitar, and ride her skateboard. She loved animals of every kind, and she and her best friend spent many hours helping our neighbors walk their dogs. Most of all, Liza loved to be in the water, and she excelled at wake-boarding and boogie-boarding.
Liza came into contact with the deadly amoeba while swimming with her friends in a local fresh water pond at a birthday party. A week later she started feeling bad, and within three days she died in the hospital surrounded by her family. We learned that she died from exposure to Naegleria Fowleri while we were still at the hospital, and not one day goes by that we do not wish we had known about this terrible disease so that we could have kept her from swimming in that pond.
William Steven Sellars ~ 6/6/96 - 8/8/07 ~ 11 yrs old Florida
Will was a very active 11 year old boy. Will loved his family, friends, sports, and he loved his pets.
Will came in contact with the Naegleria amoeba while wake-boarding on July 28th. Ten days later, Will, fighting so hard to live, lost his battle with the amoeba.
We miss him every day.
Marissa Cook-Norris ~ 10/1/99 - 8/7/07 ~ 8 yrs old South Carolina
Marissa was such an energetic loving child. Rissy had the best laugh in the whole world!!! When she laughed everyone heard it and you couldn't do anything except laugh yourself. She always put a smile on peoples faces. She was a child that had the biggest heart I have ever seen in someone so young.
About a week before Marissa had gotten sick we went on a family outing in Santee Cooper,SC. We had a great time eating, swimming and spending the day together with all our family. Little did we know that would be our last family outing together. Marissa was sick and they didn't know why!!! We are all sure that it was this amoeba that caused our Rissy to have to leave us so soon. If we had only known about this horrible thing we're sure there would have been a different outcome.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.
Dalton Counts ~ 1/8/03 - 7/31/12 ~ 9 yrs old
Dalton was a very smart intelligent young man. He was an A/B honor roll student all through school. He had a very contagious smile and was very compassionate to many people he would do anything to help or to make someone who was down feel better. If you every came into contact with him you would never forget him. This may be why there was over 220 people at his memorial services.
Dalton contracted the amoeba while swimming at Carpenter's Bluff in Denison, TX. on July 22, 2012. He did not show signs of sickness until the 25th. Dalton fought long and hard, on the 30th they did a more invasive treatment and all went well, we had hope again. However, on the 31st the doctors told us they had done everything medically possible.
Dalton fought hard for 5 days and I knew he was tired and it was time for him to go be with God.
If you have an angel who you would like to be a part of Kyle Cares Angels of Awareness,
Pictures and personal stories are always provided by the family and shared here only with their permission.
We would be honored to share your angel's story.
Blake Driggers ~ 1/14/04 - 7/17/12 ~ 8 yrs old
God blessed us with Blake on January 14, 2004. Blake was a very happy child with a outgoing personality. He loved everyone he was around and made sure he showed them. He was known for his big hugs and his big smile.Blake was always drawing pictures and creating things from whatever he found lying around. He also loved to watch movies and afterwards, he’d dress up just like a character in the movie. He enjoyed jumping on the trampoline, playing four-square with his friends, dancing and playing with his dog, Dunkin. He loved being around his family and making us all laugh. Blake most importantly loved the Lord. He shared God’s word with everyone. His favorite verse was John 3:16. Blake contracted the amoeba while on a family vacation at the lake on July 7th. Blake became sick with virus like symptoms on Saturday night, July 14th, and was taken to the ER early Sunday morning, July 15th. He was transported by ambulance Sunday afternoon to a critical care unit at a Children’s Hospital and on Tuesday afternoon, July 17th, he passed away.
Waylon Abel ~ 8/12/81 - 8/7/12 ~ 30 yrs old
Waylon was a amazing father of three and a good man. He loved to take his kids fishing, swimming, and hunting . He loved to be outdoors enjoying life. He was employed as a diesel mechanic but his true passion was doing construction work. On a hot day in August he took his children and fiance to the beach in Loogootee, Indiana and days later he had a headache, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Waylon went to the hospital and received antibiotics and went home. He returned to hospital 12 hours later, his condition worsened, and he was placed on a ventilator and airlifted Aug. 7 to St. Mary's Medical Center in Evansville, Indiana where he died hours later, five days before his 31st birthday. A few weeks later the autopsy report came back and confirmed primary amebic meningoencephalitis.
A father, a son, a brother, a fiance, and a friend.
'Our Stories' are personal and we hope to share other's stories soon.
Mark Kinkade ~ Texas
Mark passed away July 31, 1991 after contracting Naegleria Fowleri from Lake Granbury. He loved to snow ski, go fishing, water ski, loved rock n roll, and making videos of his son Reece. Mark was a computer programmer for an insurance company and he passed away at the age of 27 leaving behind his young son and his wife Deanne.
Courtney Nash ~ 7/16/95 - 8/13/11 ~ 16 yrs old
She was born and raised in Titusville, Florida and spent nearly every weekend playing in or around the St Johns River at her Grandmothers' home. Courtney's family has enjoyed the river for over 50 years, water skiing, tubing, swimming, cannon balls off the dock and fishing. Courtney was a fearless young lady who, from the age of 3, wouldn't hesitate to jump on her horse and take off into the woods with her father or grandmother chasing her with a helmet.
One week after getting her drivers license on August 4th; Courtney, her brother, cousin and a few friends were jumping off the family dock and cooling off in the water. A few days later after swimming, Courtney became sick with a high fever and extreme headache. By August 10th Courtney was admitted to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children© in Orlando , FL. where she was diagnosed with Primary Amoebic Meningitis (PAM). The doctors and nurses worked diligently for what seemed like an eternity while her family came together in prayer.
On August 13th 2011, Courtney lost the fight for her life. The family was devastated.
Within a matter of weeks her family made the decision to become a voice; a voice to raise awareness in hopes of preventing any one else from going through this unspeakable loss. Courtney's Facebook Page
~ May 8, 2003 - August 29, 2010 ~ Texas
Kali Le Ann Hardig
Survivor - 2013
Kali is the 2nd documented survivor of Naegleria Fowerli in the US.
We have had the honor of meeting this beautiful girl and she is getting better every day.
Kyle Lewis Amoeba Awareness Foundation
~a freshwater amoeba
99% Fatal ~ 100% Preventable
Jeff Rosenthal ~ 4/14/80 - 10/15/99 ~ 19 yrs old
My handsome son was a delight and loved by everyone who knew him. He was best buddies to his older brother they did everything together. Jeff enjoyed the water, loved boating and scuba diving. He was also mechanical, and helped his dad in a family owned air conditioning business. Jeff started college that fall when he contracted the amoeba after being thrown off a waver runner in shallow water in a lake. 6 days later he complained of a headache. First hospital said he had viral meningitis. I had my son moved to a teaching hospital in Miami where he was treated for PAM. Jeff lost his battle shortly after. Our lives forever changed that day! We miss him.
Charles "Ragu" Pepitone ~ 2/4/72 - 8/19/91 ~ 19 yrs old
Ragu was a 19 year old young man who just graduated from high school. He as talented, witty and personable. Ragu loved to DJ at the local teen clubs. He loved to scuba dive and play the Alto Saxophone. He was always joking and laughing. Ragu attended a party one night. A fight broke out because one of the guys needed my son to jump his car. My son did not want to do it right at that moment and told him to wait. They didn’t like it and beat him severely. One of the guys held my son’s head in stagnant, swale water till he was unconscious. He complained of headaches all week but never told me he was in a fight. His headaches became severe and I rushed him to the hospital. The following day my son died. The medical examiner’s findings were Spinal Meningitis. That did not sit well with me and requested a further investigation. They sent his information to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington DC. There they found the cause of death to be Naegleria Fowleri.
Rachel Taylor ~ 5/6/88 - 9/12/91 ~ 3 years old
We all went swimming over the labor day holiday. A few days later Rachel started with a headache and her doctor saidthat it was a virus and that she would be fine. Sunday she was worse and we took her to the hospital. She was air lifted to Pitt Memorial Hospital and they had never heard of this amoeba there. On September 12, 1991, just 10 days after she was learning to swim, Rachel was taken off life support and died in my arms. It was not until we had an autopsy done that we knew it was naegleria fowleri.
This is not suppose to happen that we have to bury our sweet SweetPie, that is what her daddy called her. It has been 22 years and it is still as hard to handle as the day it happened.
Davian Briggs ~ 7/16/03 - 8/14/10 ~ 7 yrs old Arkansas
He was a bright young man who loved his family dearly. He loved going to church (God was his everything). He loved to make people smile, he was always smiling him self and he loved going camping and swimming (he was a fish when it came to water and water took his life away). He loved the smell of flowers, he was a very bright young man who loved school as well. Everyone loved Davian. I don't know a person who didn't. He loved helping people do things, I can't stress enough on how much he loved his family. To him, family was everything along with God. He was a very smart child. He loved going on road trips even if it was just to the store. He loved his cats and his fav cartoon was phineas and ferb. He loved silly bands (he always was wearing them and if he saw someone wearing them he would ask if he could have them). Davian loved snuggling up with you and he loved nature all together. When it would snow he loved going out in the snow to make snow angels, his nick name was booger.
Davian got the amoeba while enjoying a great day swimming and playing in a freshwater swimming park with his vacation bible school.
2 years after Davian went to heaven, Kali Hardig contracted the amoeba from the same water park. It has since been shut down and turned into a fish pond.
Ronald James (RJ) Ortutay ~ 5/21/70 - 8/23/80 ~
10 years old ~ Florida (from NY)
RJ was a very happy boy. Loved sports and Family. We were on vacation at a very well known Water Park in Florida where he was having a good time swimming under water. Three days after we came home from vacation he had a severe headache. He went to the Dr. she said it was a virus and should be better in a few in a few days. That afternoon he was vomiting and had a high fever. We took him to the hospital they did a spinal tap and decided he needs to go to a large hospital the next day. The second hospital ran test and found the Amoeba they thought they caught it in time. He slipped into a coma and passed away eight days later. He was our only child at that time.
It has been 33 years and it feel's like yesterday.
Zachary Reyna ~ 12 years old Florida
Zac loved baseball! He was #7 on the field but many prayed for him to be the #4 survivor of naegleria fowleri!
In August 2013 Zac was kneeboarding in his backyard while being pulled by a fourwheeler,when the amoeba entered Zac's nose. He became sick just days later and doctors tried many things, including a new investigation drug, however, the Lord took Zac home but not before he was able to donate organs and bring many to know Jesus. Zac's Friendship House
Taken from a poem written by Zac's dad
"Zachary loved baseball,he never missed a beat.
He played so much sometimes that he wouldn't even eat.
Even if he had homework
Zac would rather be outside playing ball in the hot sun.
Baseball was his life, playing with his friends he loved so much.
I'm going to miss you Zac, your sight, your smell, your touch."
Abel Rodriguez Jr
Survivor - 2013
with severe disabilities
Abel is #3! He has survived his fight against naegleria fowleri, however, the amoeba's destruction was rapid. Abel is disabled, is blind in one eye, has developed scoliosis but he smiles and gives hope to his loving family.
Jacob 'Jake' Barrett ~1/27/90 - 7/26/02 ~ 12 yrs old
Jacob was born in Michigan and moved to Florida when he was 8. He gave up downhill skiing in Michigan for basketball and soccer in Central Florida. He also loved water sports and cooking.
"Everyday was packed for Jake" He would get home from an exhausting day playing with friends and then ask his dad to play a board game. Jake never rested.
He was an honor student and was getting ready to start 7th grade.
In the summer of 2002 Jake was tubing behind a boat when the amoeba went up his nose. Like so many, family and doctors searched for the answers; however, this freshwater amoeba's destruction was too rapid.
Jacob gave us 12 years of joy and we shall never forget!
Jordan Smelski ~ 11/9/02 - 7/2/14 ~ 11 yrs old Florida
Jordan, age 11, graduated fifth grade from Wilson Elementary where he excelled in academics and had a passion for writing, art, soccer and baseball. Outside of school Jordan enjoyed swimming, fishing, horseback riding, zip-lining and hanging out with friends. His favorite time spent was playing video games. Jordan will be remembered as a confident, determined, outgoing boy who made friends easily and was always smiling.
Jordan contracted PAM in June 2014 while on a family vacation. Jordan chose the location; we had visited there 3 years prior and had a great time. Soon after returning home, Jordan complained of a headache, stiff neck and began vomiting. We rushed Jordan to the emergency room and he was admitted that day. Jordan passed away three days later, on July 2nd, from PAM.
Jordan was an only child and is loved and greatly missed by his family and many close friends who have started on this journey of Amoeba awareness. They do this in his honor, as they don’t want this tragedy to come to any other children and their families.
Beth Knight - Oklahoma - 2015
Beth had a smile that could light up a room. She was a beautiful 24 yr old, single mother of 2 wonderful children. Her children were the greatest loves of her life. What began as a funfilled day at Lake Murray in Ardmore Oklahoma on 8/4/15 ended up being the most tragic day in our lives. The amoeba was very rapidly fatal as she passed away just a few days later on 8/10/15 with Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis. Beth had a smile that could light up a room. She was a beautiful 24 yr old, single mother of 2 wonderful children. Her children were the greatest loves of her life. What began as a funfilled day at Lake Murray in Ardmore Oklahoma on 8/4/15 ended up being the most tragic day in our lives. The amoeba was very rapidly fatal as she passed away just a few days later on 8/10/15 with Primary Amoebic Meningoencephalitis. BethSmiles
Michael Riley Jr ~ 3/1/01 - 8/30/15 ~ 14 years old ~ Texas
Michael was an honor student and a talented athlete who qualified for the Junior Olympics 4 times in track. He was an amazing young man who loved his family and friends. Days after swimming with his cross country team in a Houston area lake, he should have started high school but instead began his fight against the amoeba. Although he lost that battle, he won so much more and he is remembered and loved every day by family and friends who keep his memory alive. Michael's family will be starting an awareness foundation soon in his honor.
Survivor - 2016
Sebastian is survivor #4 in the US - we hope to share his story soon.
South Carolina - 2016
Aaron Evans ~ 2/25/93 - 9/17/07 ~ 14 years old ~ Arizona
Aaron was in the ninth grade his first year of High School when he passed away. He was on the honor roll and was very kind and considerate.. He loved playing computer games.
Our family was out boating and swimming on Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, AZ. when Aaron came into contact with the Amoeba. He died eight days later in Las Vegas, NV.