Matt Kucholtz ’96 pays it forward with nonprofit Kenna’s Kids

Kucholtz family

The Kucholtz family, from left, Matt, Kenna, Auston, Sunshine, and Caitlyn.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Matt Kucholtz '96 and his wife, Sunshine, welcomed their second child, Kenna, on Nov. 10, 2007. The strawberry-blonde baby girl appeared perfectly healthy.

But, shortly after Kenna's birth, the Kucholtzes started to notice a prominent ridge running down their daughter's forehead. At 5 months old Kenna was diagnosed with a form of craniosynostosis; she was born with an abnormally fused metopic suture that runs from the soft spot on the top of her head down to her nose.

The craniofacial specialist explained that Kenna's misshapen skull, which caused narrowing of her eyes and forehead, did not allow room for her growing brain. She would need surgery to relieve the intracranial pressure and to give her brain adequate space to grow and function properly. The procedure entailed cutting her skull open from ear to ear, across the top of the head, and separating the prematurely fused bones.

To reduce the risk of blood loss and need for a transfusion, Kenna received weekly injections of the drug Procrit for four weeks leading up to the procedure. On Aug. 6, 2008, 9-month-old Kenna underwent surgery. The only complication was a ruptured eardrum after developing a post-operative ear infection. After just a few days in the hospital, a very swollen Kenna went home.

The surgery, which totaled more than $100,000, was a success. The Kucholtzes were fortunate that health insurance covered 90 percent of the cost. The remaining out-of-pocket expenses were taken care of by a fundraising golf tournament, organized as a surprise by their friends, Jeremy and Kat Pigott.

"When I arrived with my family, there were over 100 golfers and pictures of my little girl all over the place - an incredible day!" Kucholtz said.

After paying out-of-pocket medical expenses, the "Kenna Cup" left them with a small surplus. The Kucholtzes joined forces with the Pigotts and decided to use the funds to create a nonprofit organization called Kenna's Kids. They discovered that many families with children who require major surgery have inadequate insurance coverage, and some children with complications require longer hospital stays or multiple surgeries. Kenna's Kids aims to relieve some of that financial burden.

"As we grow, we become more aware of other families in need solely by word of mouth," Kucholtz said. "We tell those families that we have elected as beneficiaries that we are going to do our best to relieve some financial burden on their family, so they can focus on the emotional support that they need to provide to their children."

Stories of families who have benefited from Kenna's Kids are featured on the organization's Web site, www.kennaskids.org.

More than 500 people participated in last year's golf tournament, including 288 golfers, 50-plus volunteers, and beneficiary family members. This year's tournament has expanded to a two-day event to attract more than 400 golfers; the 5th annual Kenna Cup is set for June 22-23, 2012, at the Golf Club at Frisco Lakes in Frisco, Texas.

"It's a very emotional day," Kucholtz said of the tournament. "Not a dry eye in the house."

Kucholtz said he owes it to everyone who supported his family during those difficult times in 2008 to pay their kindness forward. "A personal belief of mine," he said, "is that when our time comes to an end, did society benefit for having me be a part of it?"

Originally from Dallas, Kucholtz forged many friendships at Spring Hill. He was involved in Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and served as director of intramurals. Although scattered across the country, he and his friends make a point to get together every year. "It's like we never left Spring Hill," he said.

"Looking back on it, it was a great place for me to spend four years of my life," Kucholtz said. "It was tough in the beginning being from Dallas and so far away from home. I came across many families that took me into their homes for the night or the weekend and treated me as their own."

Kucholtz credits Spring Hill and Campus Ministry with the growth of his Catholic faith. He was baptized on Easter of his junior year in St. Joseph Chapel.

After graduating with a degree in economics in 1996, Kucholtz returned to the Dallas/Fort Worth area and obtained an M.B.A. in business management at the University of Dallas. He started working as a personal banker opening accounts at a small bank in Dallas and is now the bank's vice president of treasury management.

Spring Hill remains an important part of Kucholtz's life. After proposing to Sunshine, he brought her to campus to introduce her to the friendships and place that made him the individual he is today. They married in 2004 and have three children: Auston, 6; Kenna, 4; and Caitlyn, 1.

"The foundation of my faith was built at Spring Hill and what makes my family strong today," Kucholtz said. "No matter what life throws your way, and sometimes it is tough, you can always fall back on your faith, family and friendships."

For more information on Kenna's Kids and how to get involved, visit www.kennaskids.org.

Watch a video of how Kenna's Kids has helped Charlie, one of the 2012 beneficiaries: http://youtu.be/wYA9bB7Jcps.

Read the story of Rachel, one of the 2011 Kenna's Kids: http://www.dallasnews.com/news/community-news/dallas/headlines/20111202-plano-teen-who-survived-stroke-will-help-lead-children-s-holiday-parade-through-dallas.ece.

Kucholtz family
Matt and Kenna Kucholtz
Hot air balloon
Kenna and Caydence