Her father died by suicide in November 2019 but her mother didn't tell her exactly how he died at the time.
Trigger warning: This article contains themes of suicide that some readers may find distressing.
An 8-year-old girl is raising awareness about suicide prevention with a lemonade stand after her dad died of suicide. Kyleigh Brunette, from Wisconsin, doesn't want any kid to go through what she went through and grow up without a parent. Kyleigh raised close to $800 for suicide prevention efforts through her lemonade stand. "He was funny and loving and caring for me and he would never, ever yell at me," Kyleigh told PEOPLE. Kyleigh has a lot of happy memories of her time together with her father, Jordon Wakefield, from playing disc golf and video games to going to parks.
Her father died by suicide in November 2019 and at the time, her mother didn't tell her how he died. "We didn't want her to start having those feelings of guilt," said her mother, Brittany Brunette-Thimmesch, 30. "So we waited, but we didn't want to wait too long because we didn't want her to hear it from someone else."
Brunette-Thimmesch recalls it was her daughter's therapist who "pulled me aside and was like, 'You know, you're going to need to tell her eventually. She's getting older. Kids are going to start talking.'" It was only a few months back that the mother told her daughter how her father had died. Brunette-Thimmesch felt it was important to talk to her about it, so she could process it. "She needed that closure," recalled her mom. Brunette-Thimmesch works as a sub-secretary for the Sheboygan Area School District.
"I miss him every day," said Kyleigh, reported TMJ4. Kyleigh's mother is amazed by her daughter, especially given what she's been through. "After everything she's been through, to come out on top and to use it to push her and drive her further. That's just, it's amazing," said Brunette-Thimmesch. Kyleigh said she knows her father is smiling down on her and watching over her. "I think he's proud of me," she said, reported CBS 58. Kyleigh says her dad was always taking pictures of him with her. "It's always so good to know that she has those memories still," said her mother.
Kyleigh wanted to raise awareness of mental health issues and decided to set up a lemonade stand honoring her father's birthday this year—July 9. Kyleigh sold lemonade on July 1 and July 8. Brunette-Thimmesch said people were very generous and kind to her daughter. She said many people gave $20 bills for a cup of lemonade. "There was one guy who literally emptied his entire car of change," said Brunette-Thimmesch, adding that there were up to seven people waiting in the line sometimes.
Kyleigh will be donating all proceeds raised to Mental Health America in Sheboygan. Kyleigh is hoping it helps people access services that they cannot otherwise afford. "She wanted to help people that can't afford services to get the services so that it doesn't happen to another person, or another kid doesn't have to go without a parent," her mom said. Kyleigh wants to make it an annual tradition. "It made me happy because I like helping other people and I like being kind to others," said Kyleigh. "My dad died from suicide, and I want to raise awareness."
If you are having thoughts about taking your own life, or know of anyone who is, please contact The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or dial 988.