UMD alumnus Katie Bedingfield is known for her kindness and dedication to the community

By on August 4, 2021 0


One day in the fall of 2018, songs by Elton John rang out from Katie Bedingfield and Kate Burgess’ shared bedroom in the Chapter Hall of the Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority at the University of Maryland.

Bedingfield loved listening to music that students usually don’t listen to – from “Stacy’s Mom” ​​to Fountains of Wayne to Jimmy Buffett – and this occasion was no different. She had just attended an Elton John concert with her father and was determined to play each song in the concert in the order they were played.

“[It] is just one of my favorite memories of living together in a tiny little room in our sorority house, ”said Burgess, who graduated in public policy last year.

To the friends of Bedingfield, this enthusiasm represented her personality on campus and beyond: kind and welcoming to everyone, passionate about helping others, and fun loving.

Bedingfield, who graduated in public health sciences in May, died on July 10 after battling a brain tumor for three years. Her brain cancer progressed quickly after graduation, her family said.

Bedingfield was born into a military family who moved to the United States and Germany before settling in Reading, Massachusetts, a town near Boston.

At College Park, Bedingfield has stepped up to help the less fortunate in the area, said Becca Delaney, former roommate and classmate from Bedingfield in CIVICUS, a lively learning program focused on student activism and engagement. civic.

She has worked with local food banks and the Food Recovery Network, said Delaney, and volunteered at A Wider Circle.

Kelly Bedingfield, Bedingfield’s mother, recalled her daughter’s first night at college, when she worked with other CIVICUS students to make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for them. homeless in College Park.

When Kelly Bedingfield told her friends, they jokingly expressed their disbelief that freshmen don’t spend their time making sandwiches. But she knew her daughter was telling the truth – she was the type to give up a night out to help others.

Bedingfield’s passion for service dates back to his youth, his mother said. In high school, she helped teach religious education classes in her church and was a peer math teacher.

When Bedingfield was not involved in community service, the performing arts were her other passion, her mother said. She danced “since she could walk” before stopping when her brain tumor began to affect her mobility. During the summer Bedingfield enjoyed going to drama camp in Connecticut. She just loved to sing and play with her friends, said Kelly Bedingfield.

Bedingfield’s academic journey was also focused on advocacy for the greater good. His interest in public health science was sparked in part by his own cancer and his belief in the possibility of a cure. On her birthday, she would ask for donations to brain tumor research and Massachusetts General Hospital, where she received treatment, her mother said.

Bedingfield also devoted herself to the abolition of the death penalty, which she focused on in her graduation thesis. She wrote much of the paper with her left hand because her brain tumor affected coordination in her dominant right hand, according to her mother.

“[She was] really, really determined to complete her degree, ”said Kelly Bedingfield. “She… just did everything she could to hang on.”

In Kappa Alpha Theta, which Bedingfield joined in his first year, his love for others shone through.

Katie Bedingfield (left) with friends Kennedy Rush (center) and Kate Burgess (right). (Photo courtesy of Kate Burgess)

In their sophomore year, Burgess was planning a big philanthropic event for the sorority. Without being asked, Bedingfield provided support, advice and help with ordering shirts and taking pictures, Burgess said.

“There was never that wait, but Katie said, ‘I want to help you. That’s what I’m going to do, ”said Burgess.

Bedingfield was a great supporter of the philanthropy of Kappa Alpha Theta, the Special Association of Special Advocate / Guardian Appointed by the National Court for Children, an organization that provides support and resources to young people who have been victims of abuse and neglect.

She was often the first to remind her sisterhood sisters of service events and fundraisers, Burgess said.

Bedingfield has made sure to stay true to herself and not give in to the pressures that can often come with Greek life, her friends have said. She has never ruled out those who have not “acted a certain way,” said Hannah Aiello, the sister of the Bedingfield sorority.

“She really had this natural ability to make you feel comfortable and not be judged,” said Aiello, who graduated in 2020 with a degree in government and politics.

When his sisterhood sisters felt left out or doubted their place in the organization, Bedingfield was always there to reassure them.

“I often felt like I didn’t belong in my place, and she was always there like, ‘No you are fine, you belong here, I belong here, we all belong here,” said Kennedy Rush, a member of the sorority who graduated in 2020 with degrees in Environmental Science and Policy and Government and Politics.

This ability to make people feel relaxed extended even to those with whom Bedingfield was not close, said Chloe McLaughlin, who attended high school and college with Bedingfield.

“She would welcome you the same way as if she had known you forever,” McLaughlin said.

When Bedingfield took time off from school to undergo treatment for her cancer, she was disappointed that she couldn’t spend time in College Park with her friends, but she managed to keep in touch.

In February 2019, Bedingfield returned to campus for Kappa Alpha Theta’s sisterhood candidacy day. Although she was tired of her treatments, she sat in the home kitchen and chatted with anyone who wanted to talk to her, Burgess said.

Even though her cancer was progressing and she couldn’t always participate in high-energy activities, she made spending time with those she loved a priority.

She especially enjoyed spending time with her four siblings, said Kelly Bedingfield. They spent time in the family pool, watched TV shows together, or just sat around the table to talk.

“Over and over again, that’s really who she wanted to spend all of her time with for the past two years,” she said.

The few times her friends have traveled to Boston to visit Bedingfield during her treatments, she has welcomed them with open arms, Burgess said. Instead of going to tailgates like they would in College Park, they ate long meals, watched hours of Modern family and laugh at memories.

Katie Bedingfield. (Photo courtesy of Kelly Bedingfield)

“Even though circumstances have changed over the years, the way she made us feel has never changed,” said Burgess.

In the last few weeks of his life, Bedingfield’s brain tumor caused short-term memory loss. But she continued to speak optimistically about the future and showed gratitude to everyone around her.

“Until the day she died, with the hospice nurses, it was ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and she never wanted to bother anyone,” her mother said.

Now, as her loved ones remember her, her kindness to others at every moment of her life will be her legacy.

“She was really that good,” Aiello said. “Really, really deep down in his soul, he was a good person.”


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