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Basha pitcher’s passion to give began with fight for Alzheimer’s patients

(Photo courtesy Kenadee Rausch)

PHOENIX — The desire to bring a smile to others’ faces may have been in Basha High School senior Kenadee Rausch all along.

Her earliest memories of giving back came as a small child growing up in New Mexico when her family’s landscaper got her involved in donating gifts to low-income families around Christmas time. But her passion for giving back to others really began taking off when her grandma, Lou, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when Rausch was about 7 years old.

“We still go to her facility where she lives and just stay and interact with the patients. They don’t have family members, some of them,” Rausch said. “Even though they don’t remember us, they appreciate us spending time with them.”

Spending time with Alzheimer’s patients and raising awareness about the disease remains the biggest passion for Rausch, who visits her grandmother’s facility often to bring gifts, play games or just spend time with patients there. That doesn’t limit Rausch from giving back in other places.

A senior, Rausch signed with UMass to pitch for the Minutewomen and has used her athletic platform to give back on the field. She volunteers for the Gilbert Little League teams she used to play for and with her club teams also organizes programs to give back to the less fortunate around the holidays, taking the lead with canned food drives and the like.

The list of organizations she’s given back to in her life isn’t short. It includes the St. Jude’s Children Hospital, Shop with a Jock Christmas program, Feed My Starving Children, Toys for Tots, Family Christmas Angel Program and the St. Vincent DePaul Adopt-a-Family Christmas Program. Rausch also contributed to put together care packages for soldiers and is a Wounded Warrior Contributor.

“I just try to give back as much as I can with sports and teach everyone younger than me what I’ve learned,” she said.

Rausch, the daughter of former ASU punter Steve Rausch, also teamed up with the help of her junior high math teacher to create a Kids Against Bullying program.

At UMass, Rausch wants to major in business, and it’s a field where she already has experience. Of course, it wasn’t about the money.

Years ago, she began making flowered hair accessories for girls that she took to the next level, as her mother, Kelli, put it. As an 11 year old, Kenadee raised about $3,000 in a year by making the accessories by hand and selling them. About half of the proceeds were donated to St. Jude’s.

Looking back, Rausch’s mother knew her daughter had something special in her once Kenadee’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“I couldn’t have done it without her. At such a young age, she was so aware,” Kelli said.

Now, “it’ll be mother’s day and she’ll go down to the facility and she’ll bring gifts,” Rausch’s mother added. “We’re very proud of her.”

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