Kendall Bayne, a 2014 graduate of Cave Spring High School, learned five years ago she had adrenal cortical carcinoma, a rare form of cancer forming in the outer layer of the adrenal glands. Although symptoms vary, chronic abdominal pain is common. At first, her parents, Jere and Andrea Bayne, were concerned about a gluten allergy or intestinal issues. She had both upper and lower gastrointestinal scopes before other tests were completed that confirmed her diagnosis.
At age 14, she began a new journey. Her treatments began immediately following her diagnosis on Valentine’s Day in 2011. “She grew up really quick,” says her father.
Kendall had some of the most knowledgeable experts in the field working to provide her care. “She had surgery at Carilion Clinic to remove her right adrenal gland with a 11-centimeter tumor. Six months later it was determined the cancer had spread to her lungs, and she had two lung surgeries and an ablation at Duke University Hospital to remove the tumors. She went through many rounds of different chemotherapy and radiation and was enrolled in two different phase 1 studies in Scottsdale, Arizona, at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. We also travelled to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, University of Michigan Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Johns Hopkins for consults and genetic testing,” says Jere Bayne.
Over the course of five years, Kendall continued to battle for her life. Her smile was contagious and her grace through treatments was moving. Her father remembers, “Ninety-nine percent of the time she had a smile on her face as she pushed through treatments with a bright, cheerful outlook.” She crossed paths with many people and made it her mission to bring awareness to the need for cancer research without losing her delightful spirit.
Kendall also spent a lot of time with two of her good friends, sisters India and Paxton Helmer. Maverick Helmer, a younger brother, had the privilege of getting to know Kendall through the close relationship she had with his sisters. “Our house became a safe haven. We never talked to Kendall as though she had cancer,” says Maverick. “She really inspired me. What she stood for was amazing. She had a great smile that could completely change any person’s day.”
Maverick Helmer, a competitive equestrian and Olympic hopeful at age 15, was searching for a cause to support to make a difference and reach people emotionally. “I was so intrigued that even the smallest things could make the biggest difference,” Maverick explains. He was looking for a community service project and considered supporting other foundations and causes, but Kendall’s life and outlook made him look closer to home. “I decided I want to help promote living courageously, not battling cancer.”
“What she stood for was amazing. She had a great smile that could change any person’s day.” — Maverick Helmer
Kendall Bayne lost her fight with cancer in October 2015 at age 19. However, her courageous attitude continues to make an impact in the community and beyond. A preschool in Rwanda has just opened bearing her name, spearheaded by the Church of the Holy Spirit. Jere Bayne made the trip for the unveiling, and hearing the bishop say, “Live a Kendall life,” made the trip even more special. “I want to continue to make a difference — for her. Her attitude is what drives me,” he says.
Maverick, also committed to making a difference within his busy East Coast competition schedule, spoke to the Bayne family and asked permission to create a foundation in Kendall’s name to help continue to support the things close to her heart. “I am so thankful for Maverick’s initiative. He is such a mature young man for his age. I wanted to do this [create a foundation in her memory], but I just didn’t have it in me at the time,” Jere says. “The great thing about this is Maverick is running with it.”
Maverick, with the support of others, created and manages a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that honors the life and memory of Kendall Bayne. Revenues generated through the foundation’s activities will be used to support three of Kendall’s passions:
• Research – The Translational Genomics Research Institute is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization focused on developing earlier diagnostics and smarter treatments for cancer, neurological disorders, diabetes and other complex diseases.
• Young adult cancer fighters and survivors – First Descents offers a free outdoor adventure experience designed to empower them to climb, paddle and surf beyond their diagnosis, defy their cancer, reclaim their lives and connect with others doing the same.
• Academics – An honors student, Kendall made academics a priority. A Kendall Bayne Scholarship will be established.
Kendall’s Kilometers is a 5K race and 1-mile walk organized to honor the life of Kendall Bayne and raise funds for her foundation. The event will be held May 7 at River’s Edge Sports Complex in Roanoke. Included in the day’s activities is also a Sprint With Spot event. For a $5 entry fee, canine lovers with well-behaved dogs are invited to join the fun in Kendall’s memory.
A beautiful smile, a courageous spirit, and a positive outlook are characteristics Kendall passed on to those who knew her. Now others are committing to "leading a Kendall life" by supporting her foundation and carrying on her spirit.
To learn more about the Kendall Bayne Foundation or upcoming events supporting the cause, visit www.kendallbaynefoundation.org.