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A Life of Giving

How one man is making a huge difference in his community

Even as a child, Demetrius (Dee) Kemp loved helping others. “It's just something I've done my whole life,” he says. “I used to go to a mission with my grandmother to feed homeless people and people who were down on their luck. It's something that just stuck with me.”

About 10 years ago, he started his own personal breast cancer campaign, Lawrence vs. Breast Cancer, after having a chance meeting with someone in a hospital. “When I was in the Army, I went to a doctor's appointment with a girlfriend. While I was waiting for her, this lady came out and her whole demeanor told me she had just gotten the worst news of her life.”

He took a chance, walked over, and asked if he could pray with her. “When I finished the prayer, I told her, in about two weeks, everything's going to change for you.” Three weeks later, as he was driving past the hospital, this same woman waved him down, hugged him and told him that the doctors called her a week ago and told her that her results got mixed up and she didn’t have stage 4 breast cancer!

Last year, to raise more money for his campaign, he added a 5K run. “I think we raised about $4000, which went to the oncology department at Lawrence Memorial Hospital,” says Dee. “This year, we asked for it to be divided into three programs – one for free mammograms, the other for the gift card fund to help patients with breast cancer, and the other to the oncology department.”

Also, every year since 2016, he and a bunch of his friends and volunteers put together Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets of food. Starting out with 25 baskets each for Thanksgiving and Christmas, once the pandemic hit, they were handing out over 200!

“As the Covid pandemic spread, the need to help expanded to provide children with Christmas presents,” says Dee. “With the help of local businesses and generous friends we were able to provide toys, clothing, games, and gift cards.” He’s now expanded even more to give gifts, along with the baskets, to the children’s parents as well.

During Covid, he also took part in Adopt-A- Graduate, The READ (Race Education and Development), Lawrence Free Little Library project, Douglas County Back-2-School supply drive, and his favorite, San-Dee Claus.

“San-Dee Claus is when I get to play Santa for kids all over the town,” he says. “Some of my stops last year were at the Douglas County Farmers Market, the Douglas County Humane Society, VanGo, Black Stag Brewery, and the Lawrence Old Fashioned Christmas Parade.”

Before Covid shut down schools, Dee and his group had started putting together Happy Kits for Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, but because of Covid, the hospital couldn’t take them. A short time later, The Lawrence Schools Foundation asked if he would help them run a free lunch site for students. “We managed to get the Happy Kits divided up, sent to all four lunch sites, and handed out to students.”

For the last six years, he’s been a security guard at Lawrence Free State High School. “I like being with the kids and changing their outlooks on life.” Dee is also in the process of setting up his own nonprofit called Kindness is the Key so he can raise more money and receive grants to help an even wider range of people.

All photos were taken at Wayne & Larry's Sports Bar & Grill.