Rooftop Fundraiser in Rochester Honors Pioneer in Kenyan Education
Members of Rochester's "Joining Hearts and Hands" foundation held a fundraiser Friday night in honor of a friend over 8,000 miles away. That friend was Williams Kappis, a high school principal in the country of Kenya, who recently passed away. As YNN's Geoff Redick reports, that friend, and the fundraiser, are helping take education to "new heights."
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It was just your average Friday night fundraiser...except it was ninety feet in the air.
With the University of Rochester Yellowjackets singing one of their signature tunes, "The Show Goes On" by Lupe Fiasco, the evening on a Park Avenue rooftop had a perfect musical backdrop: the message, that the show is going on – even after its leader is gone.
"He's a left a great legacy," said Joanne Cala of her late friend and colleague, William Kappis.
Kappis was a high school principal in the African country of Kenya. Joanne and her husband Bill met Kappis on a trip to Kenya in 2005.
"We heard him speak once," says Bill, "and we knew that this guy was the real deal."
Kappis was an influential speaker and born leader, the Cala's say. They learned from Kappis that a secondary high school education is not provided for free by the government in Kenya, unlike the United States.
So together with Kappis, the Cala's formed "Joining Hearts & Hands," a charity based out of Rochester but helping children across the ocean get a higher education – and hopefully, a ticket out of poverty.
"We're both educators," says Joanne of herself and Bill. "I've always wanted to work in Kenya and Africa my whole life...but Bill came home one day and said, 'Let's do it,' and we did. And we haven't turned back."
On several trips, they'd soon find out what they were up against. War and poverty have torn Kenya, and it's a tough task to get the supplies, money and willpower to educate Kenyan children.
The task became much tougher, and much more painful in April, though, when its leader William Kappis tragically died of tuberculosis.
"He wouldn't have died if he had American medical attention," says friend and volunteer Ty Lambert. "And he had his fourth child after he died."
Lambert visited Kenya this past winter with the Cala's. He says he was blown away by Kappis' vision and passion.
In light of Kappis' untimely death and his family's hardship, Lambert and friends put together Friday's unique rooftop fundraiser to benefit schools in Kenya and Kappis' own family.
They also enlisted the help of the Yellowjackets, who met Kappis on their own trip to Kenya and performed for him and his friends.
"He inspired me, he just was that kind of individual," says Lambert. "He had a vision and a passion – he held assemblies for his students, for hours on end, and they were glued to their seats."
Through war and poverty, stretching overseas, and even now after death: Kappis' drive is still helping children to rise above. And, as the Yellowjackets sing: "The show goes on."