The Story of Kellie Rynn's Guitar by Steve Hayes

I love music and really love guitars. Unfortunately, God didn’t bless me with a singing voice, or even much in the way of rhythm.  That hasn’t stopped me from trying to play guitar for over 45 years.  What God has given me is the ability to use my hands and tools to create some pretty nice guitars.  I don’t build these guitars for money, instead I build them for people whom I care deeply about.  I want all of my guitars to be labors of love and the guitar that I have built for the Kellie Rynn Academy is especially close to my heart.

Mike and Kitzi Craig are neighbors who are very dear to us.  Through that relationship, I knew their daughter Kathryn, and her husband Ashley, Kellie Rynn’s parents.  My wife and I celebrated with them when Kellie Rynn was born and then shared their pain, heartbreak and tears when their beautiful baby girl died in a tragic way.  When they started to raise money for the Kellie Rynn Academy, the plan for Kellie Rynn’s guitar began to form.  I wanted to build this guitar to show our love for their family and to help them raise funds for Kellie Rynn Academy.

Building a guitar is an expensive proposition.  The materials for this guitar cost well over $1,200.00.  To help me with the cost, and to allow them to share in this gift to the Craig/Martin family, I asked neighbors if they would like to help with the cost.  As I knew they would, they bought into the project in a big way and have been following the progress of the guitar over the last several months.

Edwin McCain is one of my favorite singer-songwriters.  His hit songs include “I’ll Be” and “I Could Not Ask for More”.  Edwin is known for helping out with charitable causes in Greenville, so I reached out to him to see if he would help out with this project.  I originally had hoped that he would collaborate in the design, but instead he gave me this advice, “You are the builder, build the guitar that wants to be born.”  So that is just what I did.  It was really cool when Edwin came over to play the first complete song on Kellie Rynn’s guitar and lend his autograph to the cause.  The songs that he played on Kellie Rynn’s Guitar were the most beautiful music “I have ever made”.

I took Edwin’s advice.  I selected some beautiful Goncalo Alves wood for the top and sides.  This is a highly patterned wood with both light and dark shades that swirl together.  This light and dark pattern gave birth to the theme of the guitar that “wanted to be born”.  The theme is “From darkness, light”.  I used black binding with cream accent continuing the theme.  The guitar top is Sitka Spruce.  The headstock veneer is book matched Hawaiian Koa that I brought home from Hawaii after searching through a stack of Koa in the attic of a lumber store on Kauai.  To set all of this off, I installed Abalone purfling around the rim of the guitar and around the sound hole.  I chose Abalone because, well, it is just really beautiful.

I am now having a blast getting many different musicians to play Kellie Rynn’s guitar to help us promote the raffle.

Steve Hayes

A Letter to Our Supporters

Over the last two and a half years, Ashley and I have felt your overwhelming love and support. As Kellie Rynn’s parents, our love is so pronounced that we want to see her light shine over the entire state of South Carolina. We are very excited to announce some positive changes in Kellie Rynn Academy in order to reach our dreams!

Kellie Rynn Academy’s Board of Directors, with our full blessing, has elected to direct our focus away from remodeling existing buildings, and instead concentrate on developing funds for scholarships for low income and deserving children at existing state of the art academies in Greenville County. The Board has decided to respond to the mission of the academy to provide the highest levels of safety, diversity and access to low-income families, as well as other “ in need” families, by changing the effort which involves renovating an existing structure and maintaining the operations budget of an all new facility.  Much more good, much more quickly, can be realized using existing Greenville County partners who welcome the elevation of the safety we wish to bring, as well as become open to diversity and to including children of all economic backgrounds. 

It is our hope that you are in agreement with this direction of Kellie Rynn Academy and recognize that it is a more efficient manner of conducting the mission.  We believe this mission can be undertaken quickly with our partners. Kellie Rynn Academy will remain a separate board with the purposes of establishing the criteria, maintaining and interviewing local facilities for credibility and safety, as well as our committing to parent, grandparent and teacher training, so that this carefully monitored criteria can raise the level of infant care throughout Greenville County.  

We recognize you have graciously donated precious funds to Kellie Rynn Academy and if the refocused effort of our mission causes you to reconsider your donation, please contact us and we will refund your contribution.  It is our prayer that you will agree with this refocused concept and think that it is wise and remain a partner with us.

We sincerely hope you join us in our joy and excitement as we begin this positive refocused effort. Our mission continues to remain the same, that is to provide the safest childcare for low income children, as well as other “ in need” families.  Thank you again for your love and support and we can’t wait to see our impact on South Carolina in the near future.

All our love,
Kathryn and Ashley Martin 

Sleep: How it Changes by Age

Ever looked at your child and wondered if s/he is getting enough sleep. How many naps should your child be taking? How much night sleep is developmentally appropriate? What happens if your child doesn’t get enough sleep? Healthy sleep means that your child is getting enough sleep for their age, at developmentally appropriate times, and for an appropriate length. There are many ways to support healthy sleep, and knowing the benefits is the first step.

Benefits of Healthy Sleep
Children who are well-rested have benefits in cognitive areas, safety, mood, and overall health. 

Cognitive Ability

Cognitive ability is improved with quality rest meaning that your child will learn more quickly, be able to pay attention more effectively, and retain information better. For infants and toddlers, developing physical skills and reaching milestones will be easier because their brain and body have enough rest to help them be successful. As children get older, they will remember things they have learned (vocabulary, school and social skills) much better, and even make better decisions.


In addition to cognitive skills, your child’s body will function much better if they have had enough rest. Walking, running, climbing, and even dancing can become a challenging task. I can always tell when my children are tired towards the end of the day, and often it is because they are falling down doing tasks that are simple for them. If you see this often, and your child is not going through a growth spurt, re-evaluate the amount of sleep your child is receiving.


I’m sure you’ve seen it at one point…your child drops a toy and melts down. While it may not seem like a “big deal” to you, and it may not be, your child is very upset. When children are not getting enough sleep, they can be more irritable. Another possibility is that children become overtired and become hyperactive.


Your child’s immune system functions much better when their body is well-rested, which means they can fight off infections easier. Increased blood pressure and stress hormones (common with less sleep) also make it harder to fight infections. As my mom used to always say “Sleep is the best medicine.”

Sleep Amount
Children need much more sleep than adults, and providing the correct amount of sleep will help them be happy and healthy children. Babies from birth to 4 months will sleep often, and there is not a set schedule for them at this age, sleeping more than they are awake. Beginning around 4 months of age babies fall into a more predictable sleep schedule and take more consistent naps each day. Between 4-8 months you can expect your baby to take 3 naps day, totaling 12-15 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. 

The blue section is average amount of sleep in a 24-hour period for each age group. The green section are amounts of sleep that are outside of the average range, but still considered “normal”.

The blue section is average amount of sleep in a 24-hour period for each age group. The green section are amounts of sleep that are outside of the average range, but still considered “normal”.

At 8 months of age babies transition to two naps per day, and then between 15-18 months will transition to one nap a day. Preschoolers transition out of naps between the ages of 3 and 5, and your child will show you signs they are ready by decreasing the amount of time they nap during the day.

If you are having difficulty helping your child sleep the recommended amount, contact me for additional tips and support that can help your child get the rest they need. 

Written by: Julia Walsh, Certified Sleep Consultant

Julia Walsh is a mother of two, and a Certified Sleep Consultant with Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina. She has taught preschool for 8 years, and has a degree in Child Development. When she’s not playing with Legos and dolls or baking yummy treats with her children, she helps families overcome their sleep challenges. You can contact Julia at or Follow Julia on Facebook (Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina) and Twitter (@GoodNightNC) for daily sleep tips and advice.


ABC's of Safe Sleep

Have you ever heard…”We covered our baby with a loose blanket and he is fine.” Or “We co-slept with our child and she has a baby of her own now.”
As parents, we all want to make our babies comfortable but keep them safe. When it comes to sleep, where is the line drawn between safety and comfort? Despite the push in sleep safety, there are still many families and child care providers who are not sure what sleeping safely looks like. Every year, (according to the CDC) 3,500 babies die unexpectedly, and most occur in unsafe sleep environments.  Parents often receive information from pediatricians, child care providers, family members, and friends, but it often conflicts. 
There are 3 simple steps you can take to help your baby sleep safely. Follow the ABCs of Safe Sleep.

A – Alone
Your baby should always sleep alone. This means that they should not share a sleeping space with parents or siblings, and should not have any stuffed animals or loveys before 12 months of age. Keep loose blankets and bumpers out of the crib, as well as pacifier clips which can all become suffocation hazards. If you need to cover your child to ensure warmth, use a wearable sleep blanket.

B – Back
Place your baby flat on their back to sleep. Doing so makes it easier for your child to breathe and reduces the risk of SIDS/SUID. Refrain from using other items for sleep - bouncy chairs, car seats (outside of the car), swings, and nursing pillows – as this can restrict your baby’s airway and cause breathing difficulties…even under careful watch of an adult.

C – Crib
Your baby should sleep in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper. For parents who want to keep their baby close, you can do so by room sharing, NOT bed-sharing. For newborns and young babies, co-sleepers or bassinets next to your bed make it easier to get up for nighttime feedings and check on your baby when you wake at night. Having a separate sleep space keeps your baby safe by reducing the chance that your baby can suffocate on pillows or be accidentally rolled on top of when others are sleeping.  For older babies, you can continue to room share, using a crib instead of a co-sleeper or bassinet.

Follow these simple steps to ensure your baby’s safety during sleep. One-fourth (25%) of infant deaths each year occur due to strangulation and suffocation hazards in their sleeping environment. Don’t let your baby become one of them.

Sleep Tip
Keep your child’s room between 68-72 degrees to ensure comfort and help promote a good night of sleep for your child. 

Written by Julia Walsh, Certified Child Sleep Consultant

Julia Walsh is a mother of two, and a Certified Sleep Consultant with Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina. She has taught preschool for 8 years, and has a degree in Child Development. When she’s not playing with Legos and dolls or baking yummy treats with her children, she helps families overcome their sleep challenges. You can contact Julia at or Follow Julia on Facebook (Good Night Sleep Site North Carolina) and Twitter (@GoodNightNC) for daily sleep tips and advice. 

For more ways to help your child sleep better and be well-rested, sign up for my monthly newsletter here. up/


The Next Chapter

The Next Chapter

On February 21, 2014 my life changed forever. My sweet, perfect, smiling daughter, Kellie Rynn was killed in her child care center. Because of someone else's decisions and neglect, Kellie Rynn is gone from this Earth. The love of my life was gone My life shattered. I became a statistic. One in four people lose a child. I was thrown into a life I never wanted. Over the last two years, my life was consumed in darkness. I searched for her, thinking that maybe, just maybe, she wasn't gone. Maybe she was still here, just living somewhere else. I struggled with reality and the life I lived. Even through tremendous support from my family and loving husband, I was still missing Kellie Rynn.

On April 28, 2016, my life changed again. Kellie Rynn's little brother and our son was born. Finley Reid Michael Martin (named for both grandfathers since Kellie Rynn is named for her grandmothers). He was a beautiful 8 lbs, 1oz and 20.25 inches long. The moment I saw him I knew there could be true love again. He is a gift from Kellie Rynn. He shares her features and mannerisms, While I was pregnant, I couldn't imagine loving another child. How do you do that? My life was so consumed with Kellie Rynn, how can another child join our family. On April 28th, my heart doubled in size! Half of it is  scared and broken and the other half is brand new, just for Finley. Mother and angel is a different type of parenting. I still teach her right from wrong but Finley made me a physical mother again. I have realized how blessed we truly are. We have an angel always with us and a beautiful son to carry on her legacy with us. I never thought I'd ever say I am blessed. In no way does Finley take Kellie Rynn's place. They are two different people. I will struggle everyday, I miss Kellie Rynn every minute of every day. She is my first child, my daughter, but now I can now say, I'm a bereaved parent, and a blessed parent.

Kathryn Martin, Kellie Rynn's Mother

Out of Heartache Comes Healing

Out of Heartache Comes Healing

A blog post written by Thirty Seven West:

"From time to time, we hear of shocking, tragic events, the kind of events that change lives forever.  In these cases, we often struggle to imagine how those involved are able to go on in the wake of such heartbreak.
And yet, there are times when despair can inspire extraordinary beauty, when those involved are able to pick up the pieces and mold them into something powerful.
At Thirty Seven West, we are sometimes privileged to be a part of such efforts.  As you may know, we make custom woven labels for designers, crafters, and others, so that they can proudly put their mark on their creations.  Those marks, or logos, always have a story behind them.
Today we’d like to share one of those stories.
When maternity leave was nearing its end, Kathryn and Ashley Martin did what most parents these days do, found a nice, safe little daycare center to care for their daughter Kellie Rynn.
After finding a facility that came highly recommended, and listed on the state’s approved website, they left her in the hands of the facility’s caregivers.
Kellie Rynn Martin was a healthy, bubbly baby, with big blue eyes and an easy laugh.  Her parents Kathryn and Ashley were overjoyed to have their first child, who was also the first grandchild and great-grandchild in their family.
She was only 3 ½ months old when she died from suffocation at her daycare.  She had been put down for a nap, face-down in the crib.
Her parents were devastated.  Distraught.  How could something like this happen? They had done everything right:  They only considered facilities on the state’s list of approved childcare providers.  They asked friends and family for recommendations.  They toured facilities to see what they were like.
And yet, they lost their precious baby.
After months of searching for answers, they were horrified to learn that this childcare facility was not what it appeared to be.
They were shocked to find that nearly two-dozen children were in the facility every day, when state law only allows 6 to a registered day care. .  When prospective parents toured the facility, most of the children were ushered into the basement and kept hidden until the visitors left.  None of the staff was trained in CPR.  No one had enough basic childcare experience to know that infants should never be placed face down, because they have not yet developed the muscles to turn themselves over.
This sweet, beautiful life was lost due to simple, stupid negligence.
Since Kellie Rynn’s death, her parents Kathryn and Ashley have spoken to the South Carolina Senate and House of Representatives, and continue to campaign for stricter laws governing daycare facilities, as well as harsher penalties for childcare centers that do not comply.
They have made it their mission to prevent other families from experiencing the same heartbreak.
Friends and family have also come together to build the Kellie Rynn Academy, a “lab school” dedicated to teaching daycare professionals the highest standards of safety and child care.
Kellie Rynn’s maternal grandmother, Kitzi Craig, is donating her artistic talents to help fund the academy.  Kitzi had always been artistic, but after Kellie Rynn’s death, she turned to her art to help her heal.
Kitzi found herself inspired by the cardinals that suddenly seemed to have invaded the trees in her yard.  She began painting the cute, chubby ruby-red birds.  When she shared her new passion with a close friend, she learned that cardinals are believed to be representatives of loved ones who have passed away.  When you see a cardinal, it is a visit from the person you lost.  They tend to show up when you need them the most and they remind us that even though we may have lost someone dear, that person remains with you.
Comforted by that thought, Kitzi was inspired to keep painting the cardinals.  Then she began selling them to help raise money for the Kellie Rynn Academy.
But she wanted to add something to her creations to explain the significance of the cardinals.  Kitzi found Thirty Seven West online and had custom labels created for her products.  Now every item displays a label explaining the messages of the cardinals.  All of the money generated by the sales of the cardinals goes directly to the academy.
“I know that the story of the cardinal is just as important as the painting itself, so now every customer can see the inspiration behind the design,” says Kitzi.  A cardinal has even become the logo of the Kellie Rynn Academy.
Kitzi lets customers choose the pattern they like the most.  Each pillow is quite unique, hand painted with ink.  A number of the pillows have been purchased as memorial gifts to be given to others who have lost someone close.
So, in an effort to support this worthy cause—and the brave choice to create beauty out of heartbreak—we invite you to help.  If you would like to order one of the cardinal pillows for yourself or as a gift for someone else, you can order directly from Kitzi at this link: "

Thank you Thirty Seven West for your constant support. We greatly appreciate it.


Kellie Rynn Academy Pillows - The "Go To Gift"


Kellie Rynn Academy Pillows - The "Go To Gift"

February 21, 2014 was a bright, beautiful, and unseasonably warm winter day.  I had been having lunch with my husband Mike when I received a call from my daughter, Kathryn, that our granddaughter was unresponsive at her day care center.  Kathryn was racing to the hospital to meet the ambulance there.  We bolted from our lunch and arrived at the same time as our daughter and son in law, Ashley.

We paced.  We pleaded with God.  We questioned the staff. We called friends and family to request prayer.  When finally the coroner and homicide detective entered the waiting room and said “I’m so sorry”, our beautiful life, as we had known it, was forever changed.  I do not remember much of the following weeks, but there were many tears, hugs, casseroles, sympathy cards, and prayers.

One week later, the coroner’s report came and again our lives turned upside down.  This was not SIDS.  This was not a heart defect.  My sweet, beautiful, grand daughter was no longer with us because of greed and neglect.

The day care owner, that had been highly recommended, was caring for 23 children, not the 6 that South Carolina law allowed.  Neither she, nor either of the other two caregivers knew CPR, or sleep safety rules. Alcohol and a loaded gun were in reach of the children. My nightmare just continued.  My daughters first child, my first grandchild, my parents first great grandchild had passed away because of greed, because someone wanted more money, because following safety rules was just too much trouble and too time consuming.

I wanted to scream or hit something or somebody.  Darkness descended on me. Then I began to feel the healing power of creativity. I had always painted, but had set that aside when my children arrived and my interior design career took off, but in those dark days I became inspired by the cardinals that seem to suddenly appear in my yard.  Then, a close friend sent me the story of the cardinal.  “A cardinal is a representative of a loved one who passed away. When you see them it means they are visiting you.  They show up when you need them the most.  They show up to let you know that your loved one will always be with you.” I began painting cardinals and felt the comfort of their presence.

The cardinal even became the logo for the school that will be named for my granddaughter, The Kellie Rynn Academy.  Kellie Rynn was not the first child to lose their life in an in home day care center. We found out that many other families had suffered the same loss we had.
Kathryn and Ashley were invited to tell Kellie Rynn’s story to the SC State legislature and testify in the DSS over site hearings.  Through that, we began to realize that there were many day cares in Greenville, and throughout the state, that were not protecting the children entrusted to them.

From that sprang the idea of building a day care in memory of sweet Kellie Rynn.  It will be a day care where safety and commitment to the child comes first.  It will be a day care where other day care owners can come for training and continuing education classes to better their day cares, and it will be a childcare that offers scholarships to “in need” working families, because we know that every child deserves a safe nurturing place to spend their days.

My cardinal pillows comforted me by giving me an outlet during those early tough days, and then I began to get requests from others who had lost loved ones.  The pillows became a “go to gift” for other families that were suffering from loss. But, as soon as the paper label that I attach to each pillow, explaining the story of the cardinal, was removed, the buyer lost the significance.

I was referred to Thirty Seven West labels, and my inspired cardinal pillows were complete. Thirty Seven West, patiently worked with me on the perfect wording, fonts and size of custom labels.  Now every pillow that goes to a grieving family has the story of the inspirational cardinal.  These labels have made my custom pillows even more popular, which is wonderful because all of the proceeds from each pillow goes directly into the campaign to raise the funds to build Kellie Rynn Academy.

Kitzi Craig
Kellie Rynn’s grandmother
For more information please email me at



Be the Difference. Be the Example.


Be the Difference. Be the Example.

Every day as an ER nurse I experienced the difference between a save and a loss.  The difference of course was whether the patient had effective CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and how soon advanced cardiac life support measures were available to them.  Save and loss comes down to the rescuer and if they had the knowledge and the skills to save a life.  

As the years rolled on, I realized there was a need for childcare providers and preschools to receive high quality education in health and safety from people like me.  Those of us who knew how to teach and deliver the material without scaring the participants and have them freeze at the moment they needed the skills the most.  I became that person over time, and I have developed friendships and relationships that will be with me forever.  I became that person that knew how to engage with these beautiful people who cared for the children in our community and bring out the best in them and instill courage to do what they needed to do should they be faced with the unthinkable.  Last year we trained 850 people, and while that number seems large, it does not even scratch the surface of the people who still need it. 

My journey as an American Heart life support trainer has carried me into many situations, but none was as important to me as teaching the Kellie Rynn Martin family.  Many of you know her story but the facts are she was placed in an unsafe sleep position and died at the age of 3 months in a family home setting where the rules were broken (too many to write about) and no one knew CPR.  Many of us questioned how can that be?  How can you be responsible for the lives and well being of small helpless children and not know lifesaving skills?  It happens every day that people caring for our kids, whether they are in school or a family provider home, do not know how to help our children.  

Be the difference.  Come and learn with us and be the example!!  Not everyone can be resuscitated as sometimes CPR is not enough, but in Kellie Rynn’s case, this could have been so different, and she could be a 2-year-old getting ready to welcome her little brother to her family.  

For more information about classes and how to become certified in CPR and First Aid please feel free to email us at or call me at 864-346-0173 and we can talk about your needs and how we can help you.  

Julie Jensen, CEO Jensen and Associates, LLP








I am grateful from the bottom of my heart, that I have shared the life of Kellie Rynn. And I trust that someday my happiness, as I remember her, will far outweigh the grief I feel now.

Mama Kit



Written by Sheila Cassidy from "Healing after Loss"

"As I write this it sounds rather negative and hard but I do not mean it to be so. Happiness grounded in reality is far deeper than that built upon fantasy, and suffering teaches one that happiness can catch a person unawares in the midst of deprivation and desolation.  There is a certain stripping away of the externals which makes one more sensitive to joy as well as sorrow."