SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — We often learn the best lessons about life from the people who have lost theirs. 19-year-old Caitlyn Carman was a promising University of South Dakota student who wanted to be a teacher. She was killed in a car crash last year when she was waiting to make a left-turn on Highway 42 and a van rear-ended her car, pushing it in front of an oncoming semi truck

It’s the darkest moment of her mom’s life, but on Friday, she tried to spread a little light to students. Decked out in colorful tie-dye t-shirts, a crew of Caitlyn’s friends and family cascaded down the halls of Robert Frost Elementary. Their arms were full of boxes of books, but they were also carrying Caitlyn’s story.

Caitlyn’s friends and her mom, Barb Olson, are surprised each student in a first grade class with a book they can keep. The kids are also getting to know more about the young woman, whose nickname was Cat.

“It’s really really cool and I really want to remember Cat because it’s a very sad story,” Miles Point, first grader, said. 

Before she died, she gave a speech about how to approach life and treat people. Caitlyn’s Crew is using those words so these students can learn how to live like Cat. 

“She’s able to pass on those traits to those kids and I need to be a better person because she was a good person and she was loved by so many,” Megan Horkey, friend said.

Olson says her daughter always wanted to be a teacher. Caitlyn never made it to graduation, but one of her professors said she was already born with a diploma. 

“He just wanted me to really know that she already was a teacher. He said she was such a light at the USD education building,” Olson said. 

That’s why Olson and the Live Like Cat Foundation are giving away books and leaving this young woman’s legacy with these boys and girls. 

“She was sharing her passion. She was already doing that and this is just a simply just a continuation of what she was already doing,” Olson said. 

Caitlyn’s story was all too short, and for her loved ones — it didn’t have a happy ending.

“We’re always grieving,” Horkey said. 

But here’s why it’s worth telling, because her philosophy on life is giving these kids the chance at a very good start. 

Natalie Beisch: “Well, it’s about being kind and nice to other people.”
Brady Mallory: “Why is that important?” 
Natalie: “Because being nice and kind to people will really make a difference in the world.”

To learn more about the Live Like Cat Foundation, upcoming events, and book giveaways, visit its website