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'Enjoy and let Riley guide you,' Riley Whitelaw’s mom encourages people to find joy

Riley Whitelaw
riley i whitelaw memorial fund.jpg
Riley Whitelaw remembered for the positive impact she had on others
Posted at 6:25 PM, Jul 22, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-24 11:34:37-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — Hundreds of people in Colorado Springs attended a graduation benefit in memory of 17-year-old Riley Whitelaw, on Saturday. Riley was killed last June while working at a Colorado Springs Walgreens.

Riley’s “Graduation” Benefit commemorates Riley’s kindness and was held to celebrate Riley and all kids. It also raises money for the Riley I Whitelaw Memorial Fund.

Riley’s mom, Courtenay, told News5 she wanted people to enjoy the day. To enjoy being with family and friends and to enjoy telling stories and sharing memories of Riley. It's all in effort to honor Riley's legacy and her inspiration that lives on.

Riley was in the color guard in high school and had a passion for art.

At the event Riley's friends spent the day immersed in an activity that she truly loved, painting.

“She painted murals in the school. She painted things for different bands that she knew, and she was just very artsy. She definitely was the artsy type, so we try to carry that through also. I think when the kids, her classmates and stuff are painting, they feel a little closer to her,” Means said.

Tina Means is a Committee Member for the Riley I Whitelaw Memorial Fund. She also works with Riley’s mom, Courtenay, and is a close friend of hers.

On Saturday kids of all ages painted rocks and plant pots in honor of Riley's artistic skills.

“We would like people to travel all over the country or the world even, and leave those Riley rocks in different places. It's just to remind people of joy and kindness and brightening up somebody's day because that's what Riley was about,” Means said.

Riley was also about kindness. She even got the nickname smiley Riley from her principle because she always was smiling and making other smile to.

“She was lifting people up and being kind to everyone and so we're trying to just spread the message as far and wide as we can. That kindness does matter,” Means said.

Means said she knows it can be hard to be kind all the time, but she encourages people to live more like Riley.

“I want people to just remember that there are things in all of our lives that are difficult and there are times where. It's not so easy to be kind because the world isn't always kind to us, but I think Riley wants us to try to be as kind as we can and to treat those around us as she would, which she was lifting people up and being kind to everyone.” Means said.

One act of kindness is giving back and that is the one of the main missions for the Riley I Whitelaw Memorial Fund.

“So 100% of the proceeds from today's benefit goes back to the Riley I Whitelaw Memorial Fund,” Means said.

The Riley I Whitelaw Memorial Fund gives scholarships and grants to high school seniors who want to pursue performing and visual arts. It was created to give more kids who share Riley's passion, the chance to do so.

“We just really want to help people that are geared towards arts be able to. Have a semester or something where they don't have to pay for school,” Means said.

At the benefit many of Riley's artworks were on display and some even a part of the silent auction.

People were able to enjoy food, and listening to music from a 1990s band, this was music from Riley's favorite era. Other people bought shirts with a kindness message written on them as well as candles that had a specific scent which Courtenay picked out. People could also write a letter to Riley.

Means said this was the first of many events that will raise money to the Riley I Whitelaw Memorial Fund. She said the goal is for the scholarships to be available district wide.

To make a donation visit the Riley Whitelaw website.
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