Domestic violence victim’s family continues her legacy with comfort bags at Stormont Vail nearly 10 years after her murder

Ashley Alcala's family continues her legacy at Stormont Vail nearly 10 years after her murder.
Ashley Alcala's family continues her legacy at Stormont Vail nearly 10 years after her murder.(Stormont Vail Health)
Published: Oct. 21, 2021 at 4:54 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Nearly a decade after she was murdered by her estranged husband, Ashley Alcala’s family keeps her legacy alive with comfort bag donations to be given to children who visit the Emergency Department, just like she used to do.

After she was murdered nearly a decade ago, Stormont Vail Health says Ashley Alcala’s mother, Karren Bacon, keeps her daughter’s legacy alive through an effort she started with her grandchildren, Ashley’s children.

Stormont Vail said as a social worker in its Emergency Department, Ashley always had a special place in her heart for children, especially wanting to comfort those who came to the hospital scare or upset.

“She would go out and buy little stuffed animals, like after Easter she’d buy all the rabbits or whatever they had on sale. After all holidays, she’d go buy all the stuffed animals, and then she would give them to the kids,” Bacon recalls.

Now, Stormont Vail said Bacon and Ashley’s children, Isidro, 13, and Claire, 10, regularly fill small bags with little stuffed animals, wash-off tattoos and other toys they order. Every few months, it said the three deliver a new supply of comfort bags to the Emergency Department so the team can give them to children who arrive in the Emergency Department.

Bacon said Ashley’s children are aware of why they do it.

“We actually started doing it almost a year after Ash passed away. I decided I wanted to keep it going,” she said.

Misty Stofer, a social worker and friend of Ashley’s, said the family members are strong survivors and not only keep the memory of Ashley alive, but truly help young patients in the emergency room.

“She was like sunshine. She was light-hearted, fun and served as a bright spot for everyone who got to be around her,” Stofer said of Ashley. “She was very smart, witty and hilarious. She impacted people in a positive way no matter the circumstance.”

After Ashley left work in the early morning hours of Oct. 18, 2012, the health network said she was shot at her home, later returning to the hospital as a patient. Her estranged husband and three others were later convicted in the slaying.

Her friends and family both say Ashley was a victim of domestic violence, though she did not make others aware of her situation. Her family said they hope her story will call attention to domestic violence and possibly save others from the same situation, especially during Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October.

Bacon said Ashley was a real advocate for others. After working in several different organizations, she applied as a social worker in Stormont Vail’s Emergency Department and got the job. Bacon said Ashley loved working there and told her that she had finally found her “niche in life.”

“She would try to get people to the right place for care and she would really push the issue to get people help,” Bacon said.

Stormont Vail said Stofer and others who knew Ashley in the Emergency Department continue to make an effort to educate new team members about her story and the importance of giving comfort bags to children coming in for treatment.

“This is to continue the spirit of generosity she had,” Stofer said. “I hope no one ever forgets how this act of kindness began. It began with Ashley’s huge heart and generous spirit. I have no doubt that her kind soul will live on through the lives of her children.”

As of Thursday, Oct. 21, the health network said it has 16 inpatients who are COVID-positive under its care and 43 in its outpatient Enhanced Primary Care program. It said the percentage of those testing positive within the last 30 days who have not been vaccinated against the virus is at 77%.

From Wednesday, Stormont Vail said it has had four discharges and one COVID-related death.

Stormont Vail said the percentage of patients testing positive for the virus at its facility within the past seven days is at 10.2%, of the positive tests, 67% were unvaccinated.

The health network said it has administered 92,737 vaccinations, including first, second and third doses.

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