By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Buddy Bench dedicated to Turlock Mito warrior
Kenley Buddy Bench
A Buddy Bench was dedicated Wednesday morning at Walnut Elementary Education Center in honor of former student Kenley Montes. She passed away in January at age 13, from symptoms related to a mitochondrial disease known as Kearns-Sayre Syndrome (Photo contributed).

Kenley Montes was known for her bubbly personality, friendly disposition and compassion for others. Though Kenley passed away in January at age 13, but her outlook on life will be passed down to future students at Walnut Elementary thanks to a buddy bench in her memory.

Kenley’s parents, Juan and SaBrina Montes dedicated the buddy bench Wednesday morning at Walnut Elementary Education Center, where Kenley attended from kindergarten to sixth grade.

The rules of the buddy bench are:

1. Only sit on the Buddy Bench if you want someone to play with or need a friend.

2. If you see someone sitting on a Buddy Bench talk to them and invite them to play.

3. If you are sitting on the Buddy Bench and someone invites you to play say “yes.”

Kenley was diagnosed with a mitochondrial disease known as Kearns-Sayre Syndrome. The diagnosis came after years of growing symptoms, especially worsening vision. The disease is genetic but can, like in Kenley’s case, just spontaneously appear.

Mitochondrial disease effects specialized compartments in every cell in the body, except for red blood cells. It’s responsible for creating about 90 percent of the energy needed for the body to grow and sustain life, but in the disease, that process of developing energy is never fully realized.

Mitochondrial disease is a chronic illness that comes in many different forms. Symptoms of mitochondrial disease include poor growth, loss of muscle coordination, muscle weakness and pain, seizures, vision and/or hearing loss, gastrointestinal issues, migraines, learning disabilities, and heart, liver, or kidney failure.

When asked to explain the disease, Kenley would say it’s like trying to power all the electricity in a house on a single battery.

The disease took Kenley’s vision, limited her mobility, left her with migraines, kidney issues and diabetes, but she kept her spirit strong. In the last week she was admitted to the intensive care unit at UCSF Medical Center as the disease progressed.

Kenley was a Mito Warrior and she and her family took any opportunity to raise awareness and funds to fight the disease.