in the media

March 27, 2008

There were six ladies who helped distribute gifts to patients and their families on the Wesley Pediatric floor. Accompanying Eggbert the Easter Egg and the Easter Bunny were (l-r) Jamie Stolz, Keri Breeding, Melissa Schneider and Christy Freeman.

Wesley Medical Center child life specialist Jessica Demaree (center) arranged for the Easter bunny and Eggbert Easter Egg to visit with the patients on the pediatric floor.

One Easter Bunny’s Story

By Anne Tjaden

Twenty-two years ago, Susan Eckel donned a fuzzy white full-length costume to play the part of the Easter bunny, and she’s done it every year since.

It all began when her mother, Jacke (Eckel), the Clearwater Recreation Director, wanted to organize an Easter egg hunt for Clearwater and she needed someone to be the bunny.

Susan explains how she got the part.

“Pam Taverner, my director in Clearwater High School plays and musicals planted the seed in me … I loved costumes and dressing up. Mom made me a bunny suit and, voila, an Easter bunny was born.”

In addition to the role at Clearwater, she’s also been the Easter bunny for 10 years in Lyndon, Kan., for the last three years at K-State, at family functions, her grandfather’s nursing home, and the place “now closest to her heart,” Wesley Hospital.

Why the hospital?

A little over a year ago, Eckel learned that the granddaughter of her parents’ neighbor, 16-month old, Kyrie Dawn Thome, had been diagnosed with a rare primitive neuroectodermal tumor. The daughter and only child of Jordan and Lacie Thome was is the hospital at Wesley.

Jordan’s sister, Megan, started an Internet blog to update people on Kyrie’s medical condition and the motto, “Go, Kyrie, Go!” was adopted. It was through the “email grapevine” that Eckel learned that Kyrie would be on Wesley pediatric floor over Easter.

Eckel wanted to do something for her so on the evening of Good Friday, dressed as the Easter bunny, she and her assistant, Rita Frakes, a former Clearwater Middle School art teacher, made a special visit to the pediatric floor and distributed Easter gifts and toys.

But Kyrie was not there. She had been sent home the day before, and she died the day before Easter on April 7, 2007.

That tragedy leads to a plan

Eckel said that weekend another seed was planted. That first hospital visit led to a commitment to bring some cheer to desperately ill children and their parents at holiday times.

This past Christmas, as “Frosty,” she spread the word to friends and family about her mission. On Dec. 17, Frosty and her assistant, now named Elf Rita, were able to distribute donated gifts to the children who were patients, and to their visiting siblings.

“Toys, stuffed animals, puzzles, color books, crayons, games, stickers, books, etc. were purchased and donated.  And last but not least, many had remembered the hardships and strains the parents had to deal with. Gift cards to the grocery store, certificates to restaurants, gas cards, etc, were all well-thought out contributions for the ones who have to stand by and watch their children suffer.

“Something to ease the burden, if only just a little,” said Eckel.

With Christmas behind them and Easter soon to arrive, Eckel made known her intentions to once again lift the spirits of the sick children on the pediatric floor at Wesley. Over $1000 in donations from friends, family and co-workers poured in.

in the media

The Kyrie Foundation was selected as GoodSearch’s Charity of the Day on November 12, 2007!


in the media

August 2008

Click here to read a great article about The Kyrie Foundation published in Wichita’s Splurge! magazine.

in the media

September 28, 2008

Click here to read a great article about The Kyrie Foundation published in Kansas City’s Star Magazine.

in the media

December 23, 2009

Frosty Brightens Christmas for Kids at Wesley Medical Center

By Megan Strader

(WICHITA, Kan.) The pediatric floor at Wesley Medical Center may be the last place you'd think you'd find some Christmas cheer, but Wednesday night, it was brought in by the bag full.

"I've never been this happy in my life," exclaimed Brieanna Longstruth, after Frosty the Snowman and Rita the Elf gave the little girl her presents.

It all started three years ago when Susan Jae Eckel wanted to visit a little girl named Kyrie for Easter, but Kyrie didn't make it until Easter.

Now, twice a year Susan and her crew dress up and makes it a point to bring a smile to all kids spending holidays in hospital beds instead of their own.

"We have Spiderman puzzles and Mickey Mouse puzzles and markers and coloring book...." lists off Eli Little.

Eckel tells Eyewitness News, "Maybe just help them forget for a little bit about all the tubes and stuff that's on them, and shots and things like that, it makes it well worth it."

Families here say there's nothing that can make Christmas in a hospital easy, but volunteers like Eckel and the Kyrie Foundation definitely come close.

Robert Little tells us, "It's a God sent. Just to take your minds off the everyday grind." Another dad adds, "It was the best thing that could have happened to him tonight," when talking about his son. 

And with Kyrie's parents along for the trip, the group says they all know it's what that special little girl would want them to do.

"It's wonderful, it's also emotional, but it is a great feeling." Spreading Christmas cheer to those who need it the most. 

To read more about Kyrie's story, click here.

Frakes received the name “Eggbert the Easter Egg” and was adorned in the perfect costume sewed by Eckel’s mom. Accompanied by four friends, Keri Breeding, Christy Freeman, Melissa Schneider and Jamie Stolz, they distributed gas and restaurant gift cards to each family and bunnies, books and toys to the children.

In honor of Kyrie

Schneider said that a “Kyrie Foundation” has been established to raise awareness and to fund research grants to find a cure for pediatric brain cancer, the leading cancer killer in children.

The foundation is planning a fall family walk at the Clearwater track with events for kids, music groups, food vendors, etc.

What originally began as a once-a-year role to distribute candy to children has, for Susan Eckel, evolved into a mission to lift the spirits of little ones who suffer in the hospitals during the holidays, and a further goal to help find a cure to end that suffering.

For more information about Kyrie’s story, and plans for the future, visit

February 10,  2010

PBTF accepts $50,000 memorial research grant from Kyrie Foundation

Kyrie Thome was only 17 months old when she was diagnosed with a primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET), a rare and malignant form of brain cancer. Despite several surgeries and chemotherapy, the Wichita, Kan., toddler died within nine weeks.

Kyrie’s family was devastated, but they did not give up hope that other children could have better outcomes. Megan Thome and Chad Eickholt formed The Kyrie Foundation shortly after their niece’s death in 2007. They contacted the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF) for advice early on, and were advised that research into childhood brain tumors was seriously underfunded. With this in mind, they set an ambitious goal: to raise $50,000 in Kyrie’s memory.

Last month, Thome and Eickholt presented the PBTF with a check for $50,000, raised one dollar at a time through scrapbooking parties, a silent auction, and a fun run/walk.

Eickholt said that his organization is determined to do even more. “We are excited and honored to partner with the PBTF by enabling them to do their work faster,” the president of The Kyrie Foundation said. “As evidenced by all of the people who have donated to our cause who are the catalysts behind this research grant, small steps can truly lead to big actions. Together, we have taken a big step towards seeing a cure for pediatric brain cancer.”

The grant will support crucial studies at the PBTF’s three research institutes. “Children like Kyrie have always been the driving force behind the work of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation,” said PBTF President Dianne Traynor. “We thank The Kyrie Foundation for this opportunity to work together to fund research to find a cure for childhood brain tumors.”

The Kyrie Foundation, named for the late Kyrie Thome, has donated $50,000 to the PBTF.

in the media

September 17, 2010

The family of Kyrie Thome, a local toddler who died of brain cancer, has started a foundation to raise funds for cancer research.

As part of their fundraising effort, the Kyrie Foundation is holding a Twilight Walk on Saturday, September 18th from 5-9 p.m. at Bishop Carroll High School.

For more information, visit or you can call (913) 387-4493.

in the media

April 25, 2011

By Megan Strader/KWCH Eyewitness News

(WICHITA, Kan.)—Since Wednesday night, Melanie Blevins and Jayson Jones have been by their son's side.

"It's been a whirlwind," said Melanie. READ MORE