“Life is gone, but don’t cry, for you were just visiting.”
—Dragon Kim, 2000-2015
The drive from Orange County to Yosemite this past August was meant to be a culmination of a summer filled with camps, college classes, and athletic events for Dragon Kim and his family. This vacation was supposed to mirror the other five Yosemite trips which consisted of morning hikes, sleeping in tents, grilling over an open fire and eating sticky s’mores at evening’s end. Dragon and his friend Justin Lee went to sleep in a tent under a massive star-splashed sky, and fell asleep discussing their futures.
But when an abnormal thunder-like crack ruptured the peaceful early morning, those plans were tragically cut short. A trunk had snapped from a tree above the tent where Dragon and Justin were sleeping, suddenly ending the lives of the 14 year old boys. “We left as a family of four, and returned as a family of three,” remarked his mother, Grace Kim.
Dragon was a scholar student at Orange County School of the Arts (OCSA) where he played trombone in the symphonic band. Dragon loved learning and took college courses over the summer in economics and physics. He was a competitive athlete excelling in Tae Kwon Do and water polo. He was the quintessential classmate, teammate, son, and brother. His infectious personality won the hearts of all who knew him. A golden boy, loved by all whose lives he touched.
The agonizing loss is fresh, but the Kim’s have found healing through carrying on Dragon’s name by giving back in a way he would have loved. Before his death, Daniel and Grace Kim listened as Dragon spoke of his desire to piggyback on an already existing program called Camp OCSA, which helps underprivileged 4th-6th grade students. Although the program offered free classes in writing and drama, Dragon sought to add a class that would help students learn to read music and play an instrument.
Dragon began to take the steps necessary in order to launch this 10-week course for 4th-6th graders. Before the program could be implemented, Dragon died.
Daniel and Grace decided that the best way to honor Dragon was to carry out his dream. In lieu of flowers and gifts for the funeral, the family asked for instruments and donations in order to begin the nonprofit Dragon Kim Foundation. To date, the foundation has collected over $80,000 and a “room full of instruments” stated father, Daniel Kim.
Just five months after Dragon’s death, the first Camp OCSA trumpet and trombone class was launched. With the help of the Santa Ana Police Department Athletic and Activity League, 14 children were chosen from a long list of interested students, whose families could not afford to pay for musical instruments or lessons.
Currently the Foundation is focusing on collecting instruments and raising funds. The Kim family hopes to grow the program beyond OCSA and implement a variety of afterschool arts, athletics and academic programs in elementary schools throughout the community. The Foundation has also committed to funding scholarships to help students afford summer school programs through the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth program. Over the next 2 years, the foundation is seeking to raise one million dollars through the generosity of the community and from corporate sponsors.
The Dragon Kim Foundation will host their first annual fundraiser on May 14, 2016, at Newsong Church in Santa Ana. The event will include a wind ensemble, various artists, and graduates of OCSA performing live. Dragon may not be there in person, but his spirit certainly will, playing along with his trombone.
“Life is gone, but don’t cry, for you were just visiting,” are prophetic words from a poem written by Dragon shortly before his tragic demise. Although his life is now gone, his dream of helping the disadvantaged lives on.
To learn more about the foundation and for information on how to help, please visit dragonkimfoundation.org.