Hero of the Week: Kathy Hyland, embodying compassion, empathy, and kindness

Often, it is a great tragedy that binds people together and creates a community of supporters one never knew they had.

They say a true friend isn’t someone who’s there for you when life is at it’s best, but rather when life reaches a new low. To many, including Karen Deal, Kathy Hyland is the friend who steps up and helps you weather any and every storm.

When Karen lost her son, Dillon Garnes, this June, she found an incredible support system in Kathy, her neighbor of 8 years. 

During the majority of their time as neighbors, Deal says, “We said hi, we never really got to know each other. I am a very private person and just keep to myself. But in a sudden incident of pure tragedy, Kathy was there. There, in a way that I can not thank her enough for.” 

After Deal’s High School Senior passed away, Hyland stepped up to the plate to support not only Deal and her family, but rather the whole community mourning the loss of the person described as everyone’s best friend. 

“[Kathy] took on a role no one asked of her, just one she knew needed to be done, and she was amazing!” praises Deal. 

After immediately recognizing the community-wide grief following Dillon’s passing, Hyland decided to organize a memorial garden in Deal’s front yard to help bring closure to those grieving. 

“Within two days… the kids took it on social media, and it gained momentum,” says Hyland when describing Dillon’s friends’ response to the creation of the memorial garden. Hyland insists that Dillon’s friends and community from Mount Si High School are the ones responsible for the memorial garden – organizing it to commemorate a young man who showed everyone love, kindness, and compassion.

Kathy in Dillon’s Garden with her award

Even though Kathy is Karen’s hero, Kathy feels instead Karen is hers. Hyland argues Karen is the real hero, for raising such a fantastic person in Dillon, who was a guiding light for so many. And for Karen’s desire to help the community heal even through her mourning.

Using her artistic background, Hyland decided to offer public rock decorating and painting in the memorial garden to better help Dillon’s mourning friends express their love for their friend, who positively impacted them all. “[It was] really apparent we had to find a way for the kids to heal,” says Hyland.

“Kathy was instrumental in helping us deal with the situation at hand and then was instrumental in facilitating a way for the community, students, and teachers who were touched by Dillon, heal,” says Deal. 

Even though Hyland’s support of Deal during a time of mourning is reason enough, Deal stresses that it isn’t the main reason why she nominated Hyland for the ‘Living Snoqualmie Hero of the Week Award.’ 

Instead, Deal says she nominated Hyland because she thought it was a great way to celebrate a wonderful woman who has made a lifelong impact on her, and in this valley, and who is still working tirelessly to be an influence of positivity, support, love and compassion.

 Hyland’s impact on the community runs deep – starting with her dedication to children. Hyland ran the childcare center, Kathy’s Kids Child Care for 21 years, in the valley, until her retirement earlier this year. Hyland has made “a positive impact on many children and families who have come through and grown up in her care,” says Deal. Undoubtedly, after years of fostering our community’s youth, Hyland has made a deep impression on the community. 

Hyland’s desire to help kids couldn’t be contained by her recent retirement. Hyland now works at Snoqualmie Valley Community Network as the Youth Success! Mentor Program Coordinator.

According to Deal, Hyland coordinates adult mentors to spend an hour each week of the school year with students who need a positive adult influence.

Hyland says, “[The] job just spoke to me. I had a rough childhood, and there were several adults that mentored me.” She added, “For me, it touches my heart… I’ve always wanted to give back and help kids.”  

Kathy Hyland says she wants to encourage everyone to live a life full of empathy, compassion, and the willingness to get out of their comfort zone to help others in a time of need.

When asked about how she feels being the Hero of the Week, Hyland said she did “anything anybody would do… [and] what I hope somebody would do for me.”

Kathy is undoubtedly the neighbor, friend, and mentor one could only hope to have. With a big heart, modest streak, and inarguable ability to tell when and how to best help others, she is the perfect winner for the ‘Living Snoqualmie Hero of the Week Award.’ Not just because she stepped up for Karen Deal in a moment of need, but rather because she’s been doing that her whole life for anyone and everyone who needs a shoulder to lean on. 

To nominate your own local hero for the ‘Living Snoqualmie Hero of the Week Award’ fill out this form

Dillon Garnes’ Memorial Garden

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