Cleaning highway is way to honor loved one
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Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013

Cleaning highway is way to honor loved one

  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/26/11/57/v7rVe.Em.138.jpeg|395
    - COURTESY OF THE CAMPBELL FAMILY
    Kayla Campbell
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/26/11/57/1bzOqD.Em.138.jpeg|210
    - MELINDA JOHNSTON
    Stephanie Campbell picks up trash along Bartlett Road.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/12/26/11/57/1tqxcl.Em.138.jpeg|473
    - MELINDA JOHNSTON
    Stephanie and Robert Campbell stand near the Adopt-A-Highway sign on Bartlett Road that honors the memory of their daughter, Kayla.

Are you ever curious about the stories behind the Adopt-A-Highway signs you see?

On Bartlett Road in Mint Hill, it’s a story of a life that it ended too soon.

It’s the story of a family that desperately misses their daughter and sister. And it’s the story of a mom who wishes people would think twice before throwing out garbage, littering the road where her daughter loved to ride her bike.

Signs went up along Bartlett a few months ago declaring the highway adopted in “Loving Memory of Kayla Campbell.”

If you’ve driven that road recently, you may have seen a lady in a pink Hello Kitty knit hat and white shirt with Kayla’s picture on it picking up trash. That’s Kayla’s mom, Stephanie. She’s cleaning up the road in honor of her daughter.

“I just think that’s what she would have wanted me to do. She rode her bike all around Mint Hill and she just couldn’t understand why people littered. She’d say, ‘Mom, why do they throw their trash out like that?’  ” said Stephanie Campbell.

Last year, 16-year-old Kayla was a junior at Independence High School. She loved reading, writing, drawing, running, and making people smile. A varsity track and cross country runner, she suffered from bipolarity and depression, but with medication and therapy she was thriving in school and looking forward to college.

When she didn’t come home after a Sunday afternoon bike ride on Dec. 9, 2012, her parents feared the worse. Early on Dec. 13, her body was found under the dock in the pond of Summerwood, a subdivision across Bartlett Road from her home.

Her death was ruled accidental.

Last Mother’s Day, Shanley Campbell, Kayla’s older sister, adopted Bartlett Road for her mom through the state’s Adopt-A-Highway program. The gift obligated Stephanie Campbell to clean both sides of the state maintained portion of the road for the next four years.

Though the last thing most mothers want is something else to clean, Campbell was thrilled with the present since it honored Kayla and gave Stephanie an outlet for her energy.

The 55-year-old has been undergoing cancer treatments for four years, but still spends hours outside everyday walking dogs, working in the yard, and running in memory of her daughter.

Clocking a personal record of 1:51:43 for 13.1 miles, she recently came in second in her age group in the Thunder Road half-marathon.

Understandably, Christmas was hard on the family with more tears than joy in the house. But she says cleaning the road helped her cope knowing she was making a positive difference. Now she wants to expand the effort to town streets.

Kayla’s sign is halfway down Bartlett Road, the place where street maintenance switches from the town to the state. Stephanie wants to see the sign moved to the end of the road where folks on N.C. 218 can see it as they drive by – she’s cleaning that section anyway.

And she wants to see other streets in Mint Hill cleaned.

“There are a lot of spots in Mint Hill that need to be cleaned up,” Stephanie said. “I’m a little obsessive about things and now I see trash everywhere. I’m going to talk to town leaders about starting a local adopt a street program so we can clean up our roads. It’s something Kayla would be proud of.”

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