On February 27, 2022, the world lost a wonderful and loving human-being. Katherine Clare Smith passed away at UPMC Mercy after battling a couple of major health complications. I have known Katie since 2010. I met her at my first practice with the Pittsburgh Steelwheeler Wheelchair Rugby Team. Katie’s passion was to work with transition aged youth, and I fit that mold then. I was a sophomore in high school trying to figure out my place in this crazy world. Katie took me under her wing and empowered me to be my best. In case you’re not aware, the disabled sports community in Pittsburgh is a really tight-knit group. We are all like family. I never had a sister personally, so Katie was as close to a sister as I ever had.
Katie was in her element when she was working with youth. I have never seen anyone do it better. She was very child-like herself, and that is what her true passion was. She worked at the PEAL Center for years training youth on how to self-advocate and how to be their best selves. While she was at PEAL, she used to host weekend trainings where she would get a bunch of youth in a hotel and train them on how to be self-advocates. Katie was all about having the youth lead parts of these trainings. I joined her in some of these events and led the youth part. Those were good times and we helped so many struggling youth and their families, and we always had fun doing it too.
I currently hold a job at Disability Options Network (DON). When I started at DON we were trying to build a youth program. I don’t have a background in education and that’s what we needed. My supervisor and I both advocated to bring Katie to DON simply because there was nobody better suited than Katie. She started in June of 2020 during the heat of the pandemic. It was hard to start anything especially in the school, but she did it.
Once my supervisor left, they promoted Katie to oversee the Greensburg Office this past January. She was so excited to have a supervisory role at DON. She had so much more to give to this world. Her ultimate dream was to take her show on the road, and travel the country helping and training youth on advocacy. I would have put money on it that she would have achieved this dream. It is not easy to write this, but Katie’s memory can never and will never be lost. She touched the hearts of every man, woman, and child she met. We will continue to do our best to make Katie’s memory legendary.