Click on each photo to learn more about Kristen and her brave journey.
Kristen (left) grew up in Aiken, SC with her parents and her younger sister, Jenna (right).
Kristen was an active athlete who had just started 6th grade. She participated in soccer, cheerleading, gymnastics, and tennis, among other various sports.
Kristen took ballroom dancing lessons through a local organization. She and her partner, Steven Miano, attended the annual holiday dance. She began complaining of pain in her left knee.
Kristen performed with her Kennedy On Stage middle school show choir. Kristen's left knee was wrapped because it had just been biopsied. Soon after, she was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma (bone cancer) and began chemotherapy immediately, right before Christmas.
Kristen celebrated Easter in Columbus, OH. She had just undergone intensive surgery at The Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital to remove the tumor in her left knee. Nonetheless, Kristen was in great spirits as always!
Kristen celebrated her 14th birthday in Columbus, OH with her extended family. Her dad made her a dolphin cake for her birthday. Dolphins were Kristen's all-time favorite animals.
Kristen was overjoyed to be named the Godmother of her newborn cousin, Kayla Evans. Being Kayla's Godmother was a highlight of Kristen's life. She took the responsibility very seriously and developed a fast bond with her Goddaughter.
Kristen set off on her first day of 8th grade at Kennedy Middle School in Aiken, SC. At school, Kristen always wore her beautiful wig and a hat. Throughout her battle with cancer, Kristen acquired a huge collection of hats -- one to match every outfit and for any occasion!
Kristen celebrated the end of her chemotheraphy treatments and the beginning of remission with her "Over The Rainbow" themed off-chemo party. Kristen had a blast singing karaoke with her friends! Kristen was thankful to have amazing friends and family who supported her throughout her battle with cancer.
The cake from Kristen's Over the Rainbow Off-Chemo Celebration
Kristen (right) and her sister Jenna (left) attended Camp Rainbow, a camp for pediatric and teen cancer patients at the Medical College of Georgia (now Children's Hospital of Georgia). While at camp, Kristen's right knee began hurting. A few days later, Kristen's family received the devastating news that her cancer had returned and had become terminal.
Kristen's favorite nurse, Veronica Lack, came to visit and brought her new baby in tow. Kristen became very close to the wonderful doctors and nurses who treated her throughout her two year battle with cancer.
Kristen's dream came true when she and her family took a trip to Key Largo, FL to swim with dolphins. One of the best experiences of Kristen's life.
Kristen swam with dolphins in Key Largo, FL. The dolphins were incredibly gentle and intuitive. They gravitated toward Kristen in the water. This was one of Kristen's "bucket list" activities, made even more meaningful by sharing the experience with her family.
Six weeks before she died, Kristen was invited to Los Angeles to be featured in a cover story for Teen Magazine. Kristen spent a day modeling and interviewing at the Teen Magazine headquarters. The story was published in January 1998, one month after Kristen passed away. Kristen's words inspired, encouraged, and comforted the lives of Teen Magazine readers, as evident by the hundreds of letters the magazine received in response to her story.
While in Los Angeles for her Teen Magazine interview, Kristen had the opportunity to visit the set of her favorite television show, "Party of Five." There, she met two stars of the show, Scott Wolf (left) and Matthew Fox (right). Kristen was extremely sick that day, but the actors did a great job of making her feel comfortable and making it an unforgettable experience!
Kristen's close friend and past scholarship recipient, Ashley Salmon, designed this bulletin board in memory of Kristen. It was displayed in the main hallway of South Aiken High School. The letters displayed on the board are just a few examples of the hundreds of letters that Teen Magazine received after Kristen's article was published. Kristen touched lives around the world.
Kristen's sister, Jenna, organized a Relay for Life team in memory of Kristen. Many of Kristen and Jenna's friends and family members supported the event, making it a meaningful tribute to Kristen's memory.
Several of Kristen's friends and family members gathered at the lake for "Remembering Kristen Weekend." There, each person created a quilt square in memory of Kristen. The Drenten family has the quilt hanging prominently in their house. It is a cherished tribute to Kristen and the influence she had on her friends and family.
Kristen's Mom, Dad, and two younger sisters, Kaiya Grace (7) and Jenna (28), go to the beach once a year for a "Remembering Kristen" weekend trip. The Drenten family continues to celebrate Kristen's courage, optimism, and resilience.
Always & forever.