In memory of Karleigh

Kayla Baker was heading into her eighth grade year at Colo-NESCO when her 10-month-old half-sister, Karleigh, died of a rare blood disease in 2009.

“It was tough,” the current 17-year-old from Zearing said.

In the years that have passed since that death, Karleigh’s big sister has been committed to make sure the young life lost too soon to Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) has a legacy that lives on.

One of the cures for HLH is a bone marrow transplant, which is why Kayla has been so involved in registering people to be bone marrow donors.

“I want something good to come out of it,” said Baker, who is now a senior at Colo-NESCO. “If her passing away can help other kids through awareness, that’s what I want to do.”

Baker is planning a special event at the home Colo-NESCO basketball game Feb. 8 where people can have the inside of their mouths swabbed to be on the bone marrow donor registry.

“I want as many people to sign up so they can find matches for people,” Baker said. “I think it will be worth it to save someone’s life. There are a lot of people out there who don’t have matches.”

Kayla has partnered with Be the Match, an organization that finds bone marrow donors. She wants to raise $600 for the Feb. 8 event and people can donate at

Checks can also be made out to “Be The Match” and mailed to: Kayla Baker, 206 N. Center St., Zearing, IA, 50278.

Baker is not stopping there as she also wants to devote her career to helping with such diseases. She plans to attend the University of Iowa next fall and study microbiology to help cure diseases like the one that took Karleigh.

Kayla and Karleigh’s mother, Diane Hobart, is definitely a proud mom to see the work Kayla is doing.

“I’m pretty proud of her,” Hobart said. “She likes to do things like this to keep her sister’s memory alive.”

Kayla remembers Karleigh as always having a smile and the baby’s uncanny ability to comfort others at such a young age.

“It just makes me feel like I’m helping her memory live on,” Kayla said.