KNOXVILLE (WATE) - While Christmas may be behind us, the Christmas spirit is still alive and well, as one young lady from Karns demonstrates.
Her name is Kaitlyn Dowling, but she's known as the "Halo Girl" and at the tender age of 17, the Karns High School senior is already a Children's Hospital veteran.
"She showed up at the age of 14 with a portfolio. We've had lots of great kids who show up during the summer, but I remember Kaitlyn showing up and handing me her portfolio of all the things she wanted to do," said Cheryl Allmon, the volunteer director at the hospital.
She's known as the "Halo Girl," because of the halos she makes with tinsel and ribbons. Each one is a labor of love. Each one leaving a smile and an angel in its wake.
She began making halos on her first day as a volunteer. She was given a bag of arts and crafts and the halos seemed like a no-brainer.
"Me being myself, I said, 'Princess hats? Sweet!' and so I was so happy all that summer and all I did was halos and I've been known as the Halo Girl ever since," Dowling said.
And while halos may be her trademark, it's her compassion and brightness that children notice.
"Kaitlyn goes into every situation wanting to know what she can do to make it better," Allmon said. "If she sees a child who's hurting, Kaitlyn wants to brighten it up. She doesn't want anyone to be sad. She doesn't do it for Kaitlyn, but because she wants to see everyone happy."
Kaitlyn plans to enter college next year. Her goal is to one day be a pediatric oncologist.
Her experience at Children's has reinforced her desire to work with children who are going through difficult times.
"It's good to see that kids are happy and they're not sad and not down or crying," she said. "And it's good to see their viewpoint on life, because when you see them smile, it makes me smile more because you know what they're going through."
Kaitlyn's volunteerism and outlook on life is truly an example of the spirit of East Tennessee.
If you know someone who you believe is an example of the Spirit of East Tennessee, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.