‘No kid should be treated differently’

courtesy Amanda Kegley South St. Paul 11-year-old Maddie Kegley is being recognized by Dakota County for her efforts in raising money for organizations that support anti-bullying, mental health and suicide prevention. She founded Books Against Bullying, which she uses to donate money to one of her favorite hockey player’s foundations, which carries out anti-bullying initiatives, along with other local organizations.

courtesy Amanda Kegley Books are donated and sold for $1 to help raise funds. Money raised by Books Against Bullying is donated to Shine A Ligh7, local organizations or families. Maddie’s goal for 2019 is to donate money to each NHL team or player who supports causes focused on anti-bullying or suicide prevention.

South St. Paul pre-teen recognized for anti-bullying efforts

Sitting in an Inver Grove Heights coffee shop, Maddie Kegley takes a drink from her non-coffee beverage before quietly answering a question about the recognition she is receiving. Her mother, Amanda, had started things off mentioning Maddie’s shyness. But what Maddie sometimes lacks in words she makes up for in actions. 

This 11-year-old from South St. Paul is the brains behind Books Against Bullying, and her work has been earning her recognition since she founded the initiative.

Maddie was selected for this year’s Dakota County Public Health Achievement Award in the youth category, after being nominated by the nurse at her former elementary school.


Combining passions

Maddie started Books Against Bullying in 2017 after finding out about Shine A Ligh7 Foundation, a nonprofit founded by retired pro hockey player Paul Martin, which deals with mental health awareness, suicide prevention and anti-bullying. 

Amanda says her daughter loves hockey and there’s an annual summer event called Da Beauty League, put on by NHL players with Minnesota ties. Martin, from Elk River, was involved with the event, which supported Shine A Ligh7, but a charity event held for the nonprofit was for people 18 and older.

Maddie wanted a way to be involved, and Amanda says she suggested somehow raising money. Besides hockey, Maddie also loves reading.

“She said ‘I have a whole bunch of books, so what if I sold books?’” Amanda says, adding they ran with the idea and reached out to the community.

Books are usually donated and then sold for $1 at different events like craft fairs or at The Grove in Inver Grove Heights.

Maddie says she just wanted to help out — “No kid should be treated differently.”

Maddie had an original goal of raising $200 and ended up bringing in $600. Books Against Bullying took off from there.

Approaching the two-year mark this summer, Maddie and Books Against Bullying have raised almost $5,000. A large portion of that came from a donation made by Jason Zucker, a Minnesota Wild player.

“The donation was huge and it just felt really good to have a donation like this,” says Maddie, pointing out Zucker is her favorite player.

Amanda says the left wing started Maddie’s love of hockey, and that her daughter and Zucker have become “buddies.”

Besides being donated to Shine A Ligh7, the money raised goes to local families. Amanda says they gave $800 each to two families who lost children to suicide. 


A deserving recognition

Kayla Rogers, a nurse at Lincoln Center Elementary, nominated Maddie for the award. She says she heard about Maddie’s work through the school and was extremely proud when she heard the 11-year-old had won.

Rogers says she loves that Maddie has found a passion for advocating for youth mental health and against bullying. Both are prevalent topics but are difficult to talk about, says Rogers, so seeing a youth advocate for prevention and awareness is inspiring.

“Maddie’s drive and compassion are truly inspiring and it’s so refreshing to hear about her work, rather than the negative going on in our world today,” Rogers says.

Amanda says the list of qualifications for the award was pretty extensive, and it was emotional to see her daughter meet them.

“It’s really cool to see her growing up into this little person of her own and doing her own thing,” Amanda says. “I want to grow up and be just like her.”

Jess Luce, who was on the county award selection committee, says Maddie is “an outstanding representative of what we look for in our youth nominations,” in terms of public health contributions, collaboration, leadership, being a role model for others and the evidence of her impact. 

In her nomination letter, Rogers said Maddie’s compassion and drive have already changed the world.


Quiet pride

Amanda says her daughter shrugs off recognition.

“She doesn’t do it to be recognized,” says Amanda. “I think it’s more cool for me because I’m so proud of her.”

Maddie says it was a surprise when she found out she was nominated — her mother says she already knew. Then she won.

“My connections teacher told the whole class and they were really proud,” Maddie says.

Beyond her daughter’s work, Amanda says Books Against Bullying has been a team effort, with Maddie’s friends chipping in and enjoying to help.

For 2019, Maddie has a new goal — giving $100 to each NHL player, or their team, who support anti-bullying or suicide prevention causes.

Amanda says the captain of the Colorado Avalanche recently reached out and Maddie got a signed stick.

“That’s the stuff that she gets the most excited about,” jokes Amanda. Maddie takes a quiet pride in her work.

So far, Maddie and Books Against Bullying have donated $500 towards this year’s initiative.

Amanda says this is an important cause for Maddie.

“She won’t tell me why. She’s never been bullied, nothing like that. She just always watches people and likes to take care of people,” Amanda says. “She just wants to make sure that everyone is treated equally and doesn’t see a reason why anyone wouldn’t be.”


Maddie Kegley will be recognized April 9 at the Dakota County Board of Commissioners meeting. For a list of upcoming Books Against Bullying Events, go to www.booksagainst.org. 


–Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com.

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