In Loving Memory: The Story of Skippers Kelly Phillips and Kylie Grayden

Sarah Griep, Copy Editor

Kelly Phillips and Kylie Grayden, two names engraved into the rough misshapen stone. The initials, “KK,” are centered in the middle, while flowers, greenery and decorative dragonflies hug the rock and stones delicately circle it in the shape of a heart. Hundreds of students, teachers and faculty members stroll pass this rock everyday, most of them blissfully unaware of the tragedy that hides beneath. 

On Friday September 21, 2007, three high school students were only a half mile away from a bonfire in Belle Plaine they were planning on attending with their friends. Unfortunately, they never made it there.These students were Kelly Phillips and Kylie Grayden, both seniors at Minnetonka High School, accompanied by Grayden’s cousin, Mitch Grengs, from Woodbury High School. 

Just after eight o’clock, as they rounded a curve on the desolate road, it only took seconds for the car and the three friends to end up turned over in the ditch that paralleled the rural road. Phillips was ejected from the car and airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center. Grengs was also airlifted and was treated for non-life-threatening injuries. 

According to the Minnesota State Patrol Crash Investigation, it’s believed Grayden was either looking at her iPod or texting on her cell phone. What isn’t disputed is the fact she was distracted, and this would end her life.

Phillips was sitting in the back and wasn’t wearing her seatbelt. Her father claimed his daughter was a faithful seatbelt user, but she was a rear passenger in a vehicle where the seatbelt didn’t work. 

Over 100 family friends and family members of the two girls packed into the Hennepin County Medical Center, waiting for any news of their beloved friends. Unfortunately, they all got the news they didn’t wish to hear: Grayden’s untimely death was announced the night of the accident, and Phillips’ was announced the following morning. 

“It was just a reminder of how quickly life can change,” Phillips’ father said. His daughter had applied to three colleges just hours prior to the accident. 

Grayden was said to have a contagious smile and “the spunk or love of life,” according to a close friend, Rachael Goers, from Chanhassen. She was excited to graduate from Minnetonka High School and, “spread her wings” according to Grayden’s memorial website. 

Phillips touched many in her short life, even after she passed. Phillips’ online obituary is filled with hundreds of kind notes and memories. 

“Kelly was a wonderfully spirited woman and an influential person,” said Charlie Anderson from Shorewood, Minnesota. “I was so privileged to know her, even if just a little.” 

Phillips was immensely involved in her school community and academics and found passions extending much further than that as well. Phillips was a leader with Minnetonka hockey, a gifted downhill skier and a member of the National Honors Society. She was also deeply involved with her faith at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church. Everyone who met her recalled her enthusiasm for life and passionate demeanor, which is reflected in her extensive list of activities and interests. 

After Phillips’ untimely death, her family started a foundation in her memory. According to the Kelly Phillips Foundation website, the goal was to “serve the community and individuals alike with stewardship and participation necessary to change, much like the way Kelly inspired and taught us.” The foundation fights for safe teen driving initiatives and to spread awareness about the dangers of distracted driving, hoping to spare other families from the pain the Phillips family went through. 

This foundation continues to memorialize Phillips’s name as well as her number on the Minnetonka girls hockey team, 17. They have also have kept her name alive by building a memorial at Minnetonka High School, outside of the west entrance. 

Another memorial was built to Phillips, called the Dragonfly Garden at the Covenant Pines Bible Camp, where Phillips spent her summers as a counselor. A poem called “The Dragonfly” is a symbol of remembrance and loss and is immortalized at the camp garden.  

Their memorials are not just a remembrance of the two souls lost, but also a much too real warning of the results of distracted driving. Although so much of the high school doesn’t know the story of these two girls, we should always remember their names and what they stand for.