CBS4 News is featuring a special series of reports this holiday season called the 12 Days of Christmas. The following story is written by CBS4’s Alan Gionet.
IDAHO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4)– It’s cold and snowy at this time of the year in Idaho Springs. It feels like home with Kylie back.
“A Christmas with my family is a really big deal to me,” said the 16-year-old. Last year, Kylie wasn’t here. She couldn’t be. She was trying to overcome a suicide attempt that was the end result of a long frightening spiral of victimization and mistakes.
The hardest question she said she needed to learn to answer was “Why do bad things happen to good people? And it’s because we know that we can overcome it.”
The trouble started when Kylie was young. Her mother was in a bad relationship with her father and ended up in a women’s shelter to seek refuge after abuse. Kylie was not abused, but later her mother made decisions in the wake of that abuse that did affect her.
“My mom very brokenheartedly found an older man to help like pay for things that our family needed and help protect our family.”
But the man was a danger to Kylie.
“When my mom left to go grocery shopping he threw me down a large amount of stairs and hurt me and did sexual things to me that wasn’t okay for any human being at all.”
Kylie would endure to later make friends with a young adult when she was in the 6th grade. Kylie started running with her friend. It seemed healthy and uplifting.
“Her name was Kendra. She was my best friend and she was my running partner I started running with her and it made all the pain start to go away, it made it better for me.”
But soon, Kendra would take her own life amid problems of her own. The then 12-year-old Kylie was left to mourn and try to understand.
“I started cutting, I didn’t want to be around anybody. I still called her regularly on my mom’s phone… I didn’t believe she was dead.”
It got worse. Kylie sought comfort from a man who was 19 years old. That led to sexual assault. A friend helped her talk to police.
“She definitely helped give me the courage to help put him in jail.”
Cutting is often a symptom of girls in great stress.
“To feel the pain as if I was still alive. Because I didn’t feel alive.”
There were other contacts with older males online. Her mother found out and put a stop to one. Kylie’s world was a shattered one. In middle school she was taunted after rumors circulated.
“Between being bullied at school, being called jailbait or a whore… kids can be really cruel.”
It all came crashing down when Kylie’s trusted aunt succumbed to cancer. Kylie tried to take her own life by jumping from a bridge.
That’s when Kylie went from a hospital to Excelsior Youth Center in Aurora. She would spend more than six months there, including last Christmas. Excelsior has long cared for some of society’s worst victims, girls who’ve been abused, traded in sex trafficking, with issues of anger.
“Oh I definitely didn’t want to be there at all,” said Kylie.
These days, Excelsior is trying to return girls to their homes. But it takes work with the families.
Kylie’s mother Annie Caskey was at a loss, “When she attempted suicide we had to find something else. We had to find some other way to fix the situation because we couldn’t get through to her.”
While Kylie got counseling, Excelsior began to work with her mother.
“We were really at a point where she didn’t really feel loved so we had to re-establish that communication.”
“Today you see these kids not knowing where to turn and so sometimes that’s where residential can be that brief period of time to say, let’s slow everything down. Like the snow globe, it lets everything settle. And then figure out where we want to go from there,” said Matt Luzon, the director of community based services at Excelsior.
In decades of working with troubled children he’s learned a few things.
“A lot of times its generations of trauma. So you’re working with not only the family that you’re currently dealing with, you’re working with generations of ineffective parenting, ineffective communication, ineffective coping models.”
Excelsior helped both Kylie and her mother learn. They point to Kylie as one of their shining examples.
“She’s an awesome kid. Very, very hopeful for her and it keeps you coming back for more in this business,” said Luzon.
Kylie is not only home, but making good friends like those with the Poms team at Clear Creek High. They won regionals. She’s in a Ranger program to consider training to be a police officer someday.
“I have a really close relationship with my mom now, which is really important.”
“Kylie’s come leaps and bounds over the last year. I never could have fathomed a year ago that she would be where she is today,” said her mother.
Kylie wants to help others with her story.
“Like I believe that who I am now and who I will be in the future is due to mistakes and hard times that I have gone through. Because I was able to handle it.”
She wants others to talk to people about their problems. With all she’s been through, she’s a message of hope and a hero at 16 years old.
“Whatever the struggles that you’re dealing with now, you are still important. You’re somebody’s daughter, somebody’s son, somebody’s mother.”
Excelsior Youth Center gets a lot of credit here – although Matt Louzon maintains Kylie is the reason for her own success.
“I wish we could take any of the credit for her success, but she gets all the credit and so does her family.”
Merry Christmas to Kylie and everyone like her. She’s one of the biggest heroes I’ve ever met.