Devastating house fire fails to dampen Ligonier teen's volunteering spirit
After losing everything she owned in a house fire in November, Kelsey Sleasman, 18, of Wilpen didn't feel like celebrating Christmas, her birthday or attending her high school graduation.
“The week I was scheduled to take my SATs, my house burned down,” Sleasman said.
The tragedy was an obstacle, but “it hasn't stopped me from doing what I wanted to do,” she added.
Sleasman recently represented the Byers-Tosh Post 267 American Legion Auxiliary as a junior counselor at Keystone Girls State, a weeklong conference organized by the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Pennsylvania that teaches young girls about government and citizenship.
“It's a program that helps younger women learn more about what government is and how it operates, and you actually participate in a small state election when you're there,” Sleasman said.
“You have your cities, towns, regions, and you have the state. We learn cooperatively how to work. You have mayors, governors, vice presidents, secretaries, treasurers,” she said.
About 200 girls are accepted to attend the conference at Shippensburg University.
Sleasman participated in the conference last year.
“I learned how to speak in front of people better, and it really helped my leadership skills,” she said. “I've always been shy.”
Sleasman recruited her cousin, Shania Barkley, 16, of Bolivar to attend the conference this year. Barkley admires her cousin's dedication to the auxiliary.
“She helps out a lot of people,” Barkley said.
When Sleasman was younger, her grandmother, Martha Robertson, got her a membership to the American Legion, and about three years ago, Sleasman became more involved with the group's activities, which helped divert her attention from the aftermath of last year's fire.
“I enjoy being able to help people,” she said. “I like doing a lot of the fundraisers, like the poppy sale. I have fun because I know that my efforts are actually helping veterans.”
Sleasman's grandmother passed away about eight years ago, but close family friend Marcia Clawson, 60, of Ligonier is like a grandmother to her. As a member, Clawson has supported Sleasman's involvement with the auxiliary and admires her for taking the time to contribute.
“I have been so proud of her willingness to step up to the plate when it comes to volunteering,” Clawson said.
Sleasman is the auxiliary's historian this year and has been tasked with making a scrapbook of the group's activities to present to the president. She had to start over when she lost all of her scrapbooking items in the fire.
“I like to look at the memories,” she said. “Memories are something that may fade, but when you have a photo, you can always look back on it.”
Sleasman, who graduated from Ligonier Valley High School last month, plans to study nursing in the fall. She wants to spend her summer working with the auxiliary, pursuing her love of helping others.
Her family will likely move into their new home in several weeks, she said.
“I know other people go through this, and I just want them to know that if they ever need anybody to talk to, I'm always here,” she said. “I just want people to know that they're not alone.”
Nicole Chynoweth is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-850-2862 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Theft thwarted by employee at Wal-Mart
- Acme man’s ephemeral sculptures appear to defy laws of physics
- Man taken to hospital after New Alexandria house burns
- A family’s flag flies again in Mt. Pleasant
- Hempfield train crash search called off; no evidence found
- Motorcyclist killed after striking pole in Penn Township
- Westmoreland used car dealers indicted in fraud
- ‘Dope sick’ man in custody in Mt. Pleasant stick-up
- Online donors help Hempfield teen whose wallet was stolen
- Charges dismissed against former Westmoreland jail guard accused of sex with inmate
- Ruffsdale man hit by rig, hospitalized