Author Archives: johnlillich

Making holiday wishes come true

2009 Holiday Giving Tree

Our Holiday Giving Tree will run from November 18th to December 12th 2009.   If you’d like to host a small, medium or large Giving Tree or Host a Toy Drive at your business, church, school or social group we are looking for Giving Tree hosts.  Last year we had over 30 people and organizations host a Giving Tree enabling us to fulfill wishes for over 550 children in our 2008 Holiday Giving Tree.  It’s easy, we’ll bring you everything you need.

Wine Tasting and Silent Auction Benefit 2009

November 7th, 2009

Enjoy an evening on the lake called “The Best Event of the Year” by previous attendees. Delicious food, wine tasting, beer, desserts, and more. Awesome silent action and fun raffle prizes. Buy tickets now! $35 per person. To donate items or services, call or email Traci Lillich (916) 419-8150 or

Slideshow of Event from 2008

Details | Press Release | Directions

Our Update

By Traci Lillich
September 17, 2004

It is now September 17, 2004, and many things have changed in our lives since our twin daughter Kylee (at 23 months old) died on January 19, 2000 and since I wroteour story for the Center for Loss in Multiple Birth (CLIMB) bulletin. One of the biggest things that happened was that we moved from Cincinnati, Ohio where we lived with Kylee and Kevin (her twin brother – now 6 and in first grade) to Sacramento, CA to be near my family. It was very hard leaving our friends and life in Cincinnati two years after the anniversary of Kylee’s death. But, my mother, two sisters, brother, aunt, dad and stepmother all live here and it has been a huge blessing to be near them and be part of their daily lives. My mother and sisters have helped me tremendously with Kevin.

The second thing we have done is officially form our own non-profit organization in Kylee’s memory, it is called The Kylee Lillich Charitable Giving Tree, Inc. We help needy, grieving, and hospitalized children year round with new toys and new clothes and we have an annual holiday giving tree. In 2002 we helped over 375 kids and in 2003 we helped over 345 children as well. It is an all-volunteer organization, we have toy drives or people pick wishes off of our trees and fill that child’s wishes and we receive monetary donations to help fulfill children’s wishes. All of the children we help are referred by nurses, school administrators or social workers. It has been a tremendous healing experience for us to give back to our community in Kylee’s name and to “do things” for her in this way. Kevin asked me one day when he was four, “Why are you giving out papers with Kylee’s picture on it?” They were the Giving Tree brochures.

And the best thing that has happened to us is that we have another set of twins! After an 8th round of in vitro with a new infertility clinic out here in California, we got pregnant on December 18th, 2002. In the middle of sorting toys for the Giving Tree, Kevin came and told me, “Mommy, you have a baby in your tummy!” I was in absolute shock that it worked. Soon after we found out it was twins.

I had gone to work at Casual Corner and was able to get some infertility medical insurance but I had to go out on disability when at 17 weeks I began having contractions. I was put on strict bed-rest for 7 weeks. Baby A’s placenta was low lying and finally it moved up on its own but for the duration of the pregnancy I was mostly in bed or resting. I had gestational diabetes again and was monitored very frequently. We were told that twin B had a two-vessel umbilical cord (instead of three vessel) and were told that he would have a 25% chance of birth defects. We knew he was not growing at the rate of twin A but the perinatologists kept saying twin B was growing. Needless to say, it was an agonizing, difficult pregnancy. I was absolutely scared to death to have these babies, knowing I could not take it if something happened to one of them. But, finally at 38 weeks, I had a C-Section and my two new miracles arrived. Cooper John was a whooping 8 lbs 4 oz and my little Cole Patrick weighed in at 4 lbs 7 oz., he was fine but he had no body fat on him and he was sent immediately to the NICU. Cole struggled to keep his body temperature and could not eat on his own and had to be tube fed. But he was a fighter. I know that Kylee was perched on his isolette the whole time he was in the NICU helping him. The doctors and nurses told us it would probably be a few weeks before he came home but Cole came home after 7 days. Cooper and I came home after 5 days because I had complications (excessive bleeding and my intestines stopped working). The hospital staff were just wonderful to us. One of the things that I did was ask that the hospital put a copy of my CLIMB story in my file, so that anyone who looked after us knew our story. I have also given it to new doctors and teachers. It is so much easier for them to read about what happened to us than to have to explain it to everyone.

The boys are now over a year old and amazing. Cooper looks and laughs just like Kevin. Cole looks and has many of Kylee’s personality traits. Mostly, he is the most determined child! It is just a gift to have them. Kevin loves his brothers and is so very proud of them. The babies were born one week after Kevin began kindergarten and I was able to volunteer in his class and bring the babies once they were around 5 months old. Kevin was the only one that knew and kept saying he was having two brothers. Cooper and Cole see Kylee’s picture around our house and tries to say her name, Cole points at it and then touches his heart.

Grieving wise, I still have a heavy heart. But, I have mostly all good days now. Certain days are hard, all holidays, Mother’s Day, 1st day of school, last day of school, birthdays and anniversaries are all hard. But we always do something to include Kylee. We go to the cemetery; we call it Kylee’s place. We were able to move Kylee out here and she is buried at a beautiful cemetery in rural farm country (20 minutes from our house). Moving her was extremely hard, like burying her all over again. But we have a family plot where we have planted trees, roses, and flowers near her grave. We can sit at her grave and see 3 mountain ranges. Foxes, bunnies, birds and squirrels surround her there and Kevin gets a tractor ride from Mr. Miguel the groundskeeper whenever we are there.

Some days are still hard and I cry terribly for her. Some days I remember that awful day she died and it is unbearable. But then, I am called by one of the boys and I keep going for them. I know she would want me to be a good mommy for them. I am writing a children’s grief book about our experience and hope maybe some day that will be helpful for other families that have experienced this awful pain.

It is almost 5 years (on January 19, 2005) now that Kylee died. It has been hell, a lot of counseling and hard work to climb out of hell and a lot of love from people that care about us to help us find our new life that is full of blessings. People who meet me for this first time think I am so lucky, and I say, “No, not lucky but blessed.” It is still very hard to explain to people about what happened but we do, Kylee is always our child. I miss being the mom to a little girl, no barretts (hers sit by my computer), no Barbies, fill our house. I still hope for another little girl someday maybe via adoption.

My heart still physically aches that Kylee is not here and not playing with Kevin. He asked me recently if it was his fault Kylee died, Pam’s fault (the babysitter) or Kylee’s fault that she died. His questions come out of no where and I had to explain to him that is was no one’s fault, don’t ever think it was yours, unfortunately Kylee died in an accident. Those things still take your breath away, but we get through them one day at a time. I still get frustrated when people say stupid things like, “I could never live if my child died,” and I have learned to say, “well you don’t have a choice!” I can’t stop living, I have to be here for Kevin, Cooper, Cole, my husband John, my family. Life goes on and the best thing I can do is honor her life, her memory, and be a good mommy, a good person and fill this world with joy and hopefully laughter, just as it would have been for Kylee if she were here with me.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about our family or our non-profit organization, The Kylee Lillich Charitable Giving Tree, Inc.

Giving Tree Sees Efforts Bear Fruit

By Anita Creamer
The Sacramento Bee
December 9, 2002

It’s one of the holidays’ sweetest miracles: In small ways and large, through formal organizations and informal gestures of the heart, it’s the season of donation.

The folks behind the Kylee Lillich Charitable Giving Tree are working hard these days to gather gifts for families in Woodland and Sacramento. And they’re working just as hard to expand their program beyond the Christmas season, to help families throughout the year.

Because, of course, needs don’t end when the presents are unwrapped and the decorations come down off the tree.

And the joy that Traci Lillich wants to spread in her late daughter’s memory neither begins nor ends with the holiday season.

“Her life was a miracle,” says Lillich, 31, who lives in North Natomas. “It was a gift given to us. It was important to have something good out of her death.”

And so the touching story of the Charitable Giving tree, this effort that started nine years ago and in a way quite unrelated to the Lillich family. At Woodland’s Lee Junior High, teachers compiling a Christmas wish list for students who seemed to go without a little too often.

They bought gifts and necessities – clothes, shoes, blankets. Over time, the program grew to include other woodland schools. Last year, the Giving tree benefited 425 youngsters.

During her tenure as a physical education teacher at Lee, Tara Keegan was a dedicated Giving Tree volunteer. Keegan, now 31 and a teacher at Elk Grove High School, is Traci Lillich’s sister. So in February 1998, when Traci gave birth to twins in Cincinnati, people at Lee Junior High knew all about it.

Keegan happily shared pictures of Kevin and Kylee Lillich with Lee’s faculty. She provided them with frequent twin updates, and she visited the twins in Cincinnati a number of times.

In January 2000, a few weeks before her second birthday, Kylee died, accidentally asphyxiated when she was playing at their home.

For Traci Lillich and her extended family back home in California, life stopped, too. At Lee Junior High, hearts broke for the family.

“Tara had been so involved in the Giving Tree when her niece passed away, we dedicated it in memory of her,” says Reyna Madueno, a program manager with the Woodland district. Even after Tara went to work in Elk Grove, she remained involved in the Giving Tree.

And when John and Traci Lillich and their son, Kevin, moved to Sacramento from Cincinnati, it was the most natural thing in the world for Traci to devote herself to the program that helps others in her daughter’s name. For her, giving makes grieving a little less painful.

The Giving Tree has incorporated as a nonprofit with an all-volunteer board of directors. It’s slowly expanding its holiday program into Sacramento’s Mustard Seed School, although the Woodland district remains the primary focus.

In the future, Lillich and her board foresee helping needy children throughout the year, perhaps focusing on grieving children who’ve lost a loved one.

But right now, the volunteers are busy collecting donations and compiling the items and gifts for children’s wish lists.

“At Lee, kids whose names were on the list but didn’t know it would come in and give us their lunch money to help other kids,” says Tara Keegan. “One girl brought her Barbie, because she knew someone would want it.”

Because of Keegan’s connections with the Giving Tree, Elk Grove students are now participating – selecting names off the list and buying gifts for children they don’t know.

Like so many other people this time of year, they’re learning the value of giving, which pleases Keegan – and they’re learning it in Kylee Lillich’s name, which pleases the Lillich family.

“Kylee was so loved and so blessed,” says Traci Lillich.

And the Giving Tree wants to pass those blessings along to others.