ABC7 Exclusive: Kelli O'Laughlin's family spreads joy in her honor

October 10, 2012 (CHICAGO)

The album is full of beautiful photos, and it seems Kelli never took a bad picture. Nor did she ever know a stranger, according to her family. She considered people she didn't know to be friends she had yet to meet.

"I asked Kelli at one point: 'So who's your best friend?' She said 'I have no best friend, everybody is my friend.' And it was true," Brenda said.

Brenda and her husband, John, could have curled up in a ball and locked the world out when their daughter was murdered. But instead they opened their arms and their hearts.

"We really did not know how many friends she had. What is really nice now is all these friends are reaching out to us. They haven't closed us out and we haven't closed them out," Brenda said.

"That's maybe the best way for me to describe grief: It's a dark cloud. It didn't lift the cloud for me so much as there were other people in it with us," John O'Laughlin, Kelli's father, said.

The O'Laughlins have tried to harness all of the good will and use it to do some good for others. There are have been tennis tournaments and flower sales. A fun run, "Run for Kelli," is planned for next month. Money raised will send children to O'Laughlin's favorite summer camp, pay for college scholarships, and buy uniforms for the local tennis team.

"Our goal is to help out other children just like Kelli always wanted to do."

The pain of Kelli's loss - as surprising as it was senseless - is still a constant. She walked in a robbery, police said, and was killed. The suspect is a career criminal, John Wilson, Jr., who was on parole.

"It's still hard. It's probably going to be hard for the rest of our lives," Brenda said. "Are the edges less sharp? I don't know. Not yet. It's still very hard."

Kelli Joy O'Laughlin Memorial Fund

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