Ashton focused her life on others - always asking questions and always willing to learn and open her mind to new and exciting challenges. As she grew into an adult she chose her life goal to be someone who would help and never hurt. Where she saw a need, she found a way and a passion to help.
After moving from Colorado Springs to Athens, GA, Ashton actively sought out ways to help in her new community. Having never lived here before she took a volunteer job in Monroe, GA teaching art at a local church, River of Mercy, that served as a safe place for kids to go after school. She also taught art, dance and healthy cooking at Athens Academy. Within less than a year, Ashton really started to find her place in the community. She was active with Community Connections, a non-profit in Athens which later merged with United Way of North East Georgia. She also volunteered on First Fridays on Eastside Athens, providing a booth with art supplies so the kids could learn and explore in a fun, non-structured setting while their parent(s) shopped at the Farmers' Market. She later worked with My Athens which partnered up with Habitat for Humanity. Ashton did all this volunteer work while earning her BA degree at UGA in Communications with an emphasis on interracial communication and a minor in African Studies.
Once Ashton graduated, she worked as an Assistant Director with a local non-profit, but soon found she was being led in another direction. She started to volunteer at Women to the World’s local mentoring program, PALS; this is where she found her true passion. She mentored and taught women who were falling through the cracks of life. Some were coming out of recovery, while some had never completed High school due to life’s challenges. She always said when working with these women, they filled her soul. She was seeing how education and learning job skills, and knowing someone had your back, were the key to breaking the cycle of poverty and bettering your life and the life of your family. As she worked with these women, she recognized that her calling in life was to work with non-profits for the betterment of the community. She found the belief that education, whatever that may be, was desperately needed in the population most at risk, women and children who struggle day after day to better their lives and the lives of their children. In Ashton’s eyes, who wouldn’t want that? She saw the struggle and wanted to help.
This story of Ashton’s calling cannot end with her tragic death. As Ashton’s parents, we decided to carry her legacy forward. That is why we started the Ashton Hope Keegan Foundation. We will pursue her dreams of helping those who could use help getting on their feet. We will be raising funds to provide financial assistance for GED classes and testing, and providing material support to help these women reach the first rung of the economic ladder. As the Foundation evolved, we expanded our efforts to provide additional funding to programs that provide educational/vocational training to help these women then reach the second rung of the economic ladder. In the future, we would like to provide scholarships to the children who also are at risk of falling through the cracks as a result of their circumstances. In doing so, we hope to prevent the "first failure" that leads to generational poverty.
We were and are so proud of our daughter and what she was able to accomplish in her young life, cut way too short at the age of 23.
The Ashton Hope Keegan Foundation team is a group of friends, brought together by Ashton, that became "Framily." After having lived the military lifestyle for 18 years, Ashton was always on the lookout for people who were new to an area, or who had similar passions. She welcomed them with open arms, then recruited them to help with her many charitable efforts. Ashton's "Framily" remains deeply involved in everything from educational outreach to animal rescue, and is the core team that makes the Foundation work.