Each month, Taylor Cornett, 12, assisted in her church’s “Lunch Box Ministry” by providing meals to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy at a treatment center in Hazard, Ky. Along with other volunteers from Petrey Memorial Baptist Church (including her mother, grandmother, and aunt), Taylor helped decorate, assemble, and prepare small bags of food for the patients and their families. “She really liked to see the patients’ faces because they don’t expect young people to do that,” said Casey Cornett of her younger sister. “She liked seeing the joy.” Taylor spread happiness at home by taking the time each evening to remind family members that she loved them. An accomplished athlete herself, she went out of her way to include others in games during recess, especially a peer who has autism.
Taylor loved basketball from the time she was a toddler. She was on her middle school’s team, the R.W. Combs Lady Mustangs, which recently won the sixth grade girls’ championship game. She also played recreational basketball on weekends and practiced with the Perry County Central High School team when her own team’s season ended. Coach Randy Napier invited the younger athletes to practice with the high school team twice a week; Taylor and a friend attended each day. In texts to her older sister, Taylor enthusiastically recreated each practice and described the new friends she made on the team. “They would show up because they were so excited about being with the big girls. It was such a big deal to them,” Coach Napier told MSNBC.com. Taylor “was so proud of herself.” She was confident, vocal at meetings, and never intimidated by the older girls. “Watch this, Coach,” she often told Napier at practice. “Watch this!”
Taylor died a day after she was shot at Hazard Community & Technical College in Hazard on Jan. 15. Her father and 20-year-old cousin were also killed in the same shooting.