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'Never quit'; Crookston 11-year-old dragged by semi inspires crowd at RedHawks game

Kaylee Acevedo lost her right leg in the accident. She still remembers Crookston police officer James Brandon laying with her on the road pinky swearing he wasn't going to let her die.

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11-year-old Kaylee Acevedo throws out the first pitch at the Fargo-Moorhead Red Hawks game.
Matt Henson/WDAY
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FARGO - She can't wait to get home and be a kid again.

It's been a year of firsts all over again for the 11-year-old Kaylee Acevedo.

Last October she was on an evening bike ride with her cousin when a semi hopped the curb while making a turn in downtown Crookston.

Acevedo got tangled in the back wheels, and dragged more than a block until the semi driver realized the little girl was trapped in the wheels.

Her right leg had to be amputated.

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Monday night, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks asked her to throw out the first pitch.

"I don't usually play sports, but I was still excited," she said. "It means people care about me and people love me."

It's been a tough year for this 5th grader from Crookston who spent nearly 5 months at Children's Hospital. With constant doctor and therapy appointments, she's had to live in Fargo separated from her family and friends from school.

"Sadness and wondering why, but I still keep going because I know people are there for me to help me through it. And I love everybody who has supported me," said Acevedo.

She says she remembers everything from the accident. Especially, Crookston police officer James Brandon. He laid on the road with her, pinkies locked, until the ambulance arrived.

"He pinky promised me he wouldn't let me die and I'm still here. That's my favorite memory of it," she said.

Each day, Acevedo makes new memories as she adjusts to life as an amputee. One of her big goals was to swim on her 11th birthday. That's exactly what she did.

"I went into a ball pit for the first time in a while, and on a trampoline for the first time in a while," she said about other recent experiences.

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As for her throw in front of hundreds during $1 hot dog night.

"I didn't think I would throw it that far but I did," she said of her strike across home plate.

Acevedo is not sharing her story for sympathy, but hopes she can inspire others, both kids and adults, who need to overcome obstacles in life.

"Keep going and work hard, never quit," she said.

Acevedo is looking forward to returning to elementary school in Crookston this Fall after missing all of last year.

She is expected to take another big step in her recovery next week when she gets measured for her prosthetic leg.

Since the accident, the Minnesota Department of Transportation is in the process of redesigning the intersection at Highway 2 and Broadway.

The state patrol just wrapped up the investigation into the accident, and the Polk County Attorney is reviewing it for potential charges against the semi driver.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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