Communication Builds Our Community

Friends and Family Mourn Loss of 22-Year-Old Whose Joy Could Light Up a Room

Fund Accounts Set Up for Accident Victims

Friends say when 22-year-old Kaitlyn Kinard smiled the atmosphere grew happier and more positive.

"She had such a contagious type of personality - whenever she walked into a room you could feel an energy change - just the positivity she brought," explained Elise Coon, Kinard's longtime friend and co-captain of the color guard at Frostproof Middle-Senior High, where the two graduated in 2016.

Coon is now mourning the loss of her friend, who died March 22 along with her dog JoJo after a wrong-way traffic crash on SR 60 near Vero Beach. Kinard's longtime boyfriend Landon Chance, 21, of Lake Wales, was seriously injured and is in stable condition at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center.

In December Kinard would have completed nursing school at Florida Gulf Coast University. Now it will be a family member who walks across the stage to accept her degree.

Friends have set up a fund to offset funeral expenses and plan to use excess funds for one or more scholarships in her name. Donations may be made online at

One of the fund organizers, Jessica Garrett, tends bar part-time at The Coop, the Babson Park restaurant managed by Kaity's mom, Ginny Castle, who patrons affectionately call "Chicken."

"I love her mama to death," Garrett said, noting she is pleased that the community has stepped up to support the family and donated more than $14,000 so far. "A lot of people know that family and love them. This gives her the opportunity to lay her baby to rest. Nobody expects to bury a child, let alone a 22-year-old."

Garrett said knowing Kaity even for a short period of time left a lasting impression: "She was an angel. She made you feel loved and welcome even if she didn't even know you. From the moment you met her she gave you the feeling you'd known her forever.

"She was as bubbly as she could be, happy and positive. Her mama did an amazing job raising her."

The COVID-19 virus scare has impacted the ability of family and friends to grieve their loss. Comforting hugs must be avoided, and to comply with Center for Disease Control guidelines, Elise Coon had to set up rotating 15-minute shifts with no more than 10 visitors from 1-8 p.m. Thursday, March 26 visitation at Marion Nelson Funeral Home in Frostproof. The slots filled up quickly, but the family will try to accommodate others who show up. The service will be broadcast online at 11 a.m. Friday, March 27 at Kaity will be buried in South Carolina near her father, Stephen Todd Kinard. A local Celebration of Life will be scheduled once the coronavirus precautions are lifted.

Elise Coon's husband Matt acknowledged their lives have changed dramatically, with Kaity gone and Chance having surgeries and recovering in a hospital on the East Coast, unable to have visitors because of the virus scare: "As best friends and couples we've been doing things together for a long time. It hurts not being there for him. He has a long way to recovery."

The son of Susie and Brian Chance, Landon is expected to need multiple surgeries, and an online fundraiser also has been set up to help with his recovery. Donations can be made online at

Chance was driving westbound on SR 60 near 110th St. west of I-95 near Vero Beach about 10 p.m. Sunday when he collided with an eastbound Land Rover that came into his lane. The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating the crash, trying to determine why Andre Barrales, 50, of Hallandale was driving in the wrong lane. Barrales sustained only minor injuries.

Friends and family are still trying to make sense of the tragedy of a life cut short. They remember their "Kaity-Bug" as determined, smart, sweet and beautiful. Matt Coon said while Kaity also was involved in chorus and drama in high school, her first love was the color guard: "She poured her heart and soul into not only learning the sport but teaching others."

Kaity attended Florida State University for two years before transferring to FGCU, where she showed leadership by organizing study groups and helping other nursing students.

"She loved school all of her life. She was so smart, so good at it," said Elise Coon, noting a scholarship in Kaity's name is appropriate because "we know how much she appreciated all the scholarships she got when she was going to college."

Hundreds of people posted loving and supportive messages on Facebook, reaching out to Kaity's family and the Chances. The outpouring didn't surprise Elise Coon: "Kaity would always try to see the best in every situation – to love people and show joy."


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