Faith helps family keep focused as they navigate life’s adventures
by Jessica Langdon
LEAWOOD — Life can call for a little bit of fancy footwork.
Especially in a family of 10 — with five kids studying Irish dance!
From basic reels to full-blown Irish feiseanna competitions, dance keeps Kristin and Jason Knight and their eight children, all parishioners of Church of the Nativity in Leawood, on their toes.
Add piano lessons, running a rosary guild and launching a new online business into the mix, and things can get downright slippery.
You see, a big part of their new business — called Halos and Hornpipes — is all about selling bar soap.
Through it, the family is helping parishes and Irish dance groups hold fundraising sales with soaps and more. They’re also selling rosaries to fund the work of the guild.
“It truly has got to be God’s plan,” said Kristin of her large family. “It’s worked out wonderfully.”
She wasn’t Catholic when she and Jason married after college, but she agreed to raise their children in the faith.
Although not intending to convert, Kristin did start researching natural methods of family planning. Her research kept leading her to Catholic resources and Scripture.
“Wow, this stuff really makes sense,” she thought.
Before long, she was going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults with her husband as her sponsor.
“It really renewed his faith,” Kristin added.
Today, faith is a central part of life for the whole clan, which includes 11-year-old Cecilia, 9-year-old Maddox, 8-year-old Audrey, 6-year-old Mary, 4-year-old Veronica, 3-year-old Benedict, Peter, who will be 2 in April, and the baby, Lucy.
“We home school during the day,” said Kristin.
“And we dance a lot at night.”
Feet in motion
“Riverdance” caught Cecilia’s attention when she was only five.
She immediately wanted to learn how to do it.
So the family turned to the O’Riada Dance Academy — now the O’Riada-McCarty-Manning Academy — for lessons.
“Cecilia just immediately took to it,” said Kristin. And while her instructor Christine O’Riada was demanding, Cecilia pushed herself and thrived.
“It’s just fun,” Cecilia said. “I get to fly across the floor.”
Emily McCarty and Joseph Manning now run the studio, which has just moved to a new location in Westwood.
Manning is amazed at the energy and activities of this family.
“Each one’s given the perfect opportunity to thrive at what they do,” he said. “Each kid has their own personality. It’s fun to see that.”
As for Irish dance? “It’s something that gets inside of you and you can’t get rid of it, no matter how hard you try,” Manning said.
It’s clearly inside the Knight kids.
Kristin enjoys the solo aspects and the teamwork involved. The steps are traditional and disciplined. There’s modesty in the way the dancers dress.
And this is something the family can do together.
Cecilia attends a “focus” class for dancers who have proven they work hard.
Maddox and Audrey have been dancing for a while, and Mary and Veronica began this year.
“Of course, the others think they’re going to join, too,” said Kristin.
The Knights look for ways to channel the energy of their eight offspring into responsibility and productivity.
One way that’s proved successful for them is the rosary guild at Nativity.
It’s an ongoing charity and is something everyone can do, Kristin said. A busy parent can make a rosary in the car waiting on kids, she learned, while waiting for her own Irish dancers to finish.
The Knights at first made rosaries as a family, then approached the church about starting a guild.
It caught on. The meetings from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the third Monday of each month draw people from across the area.
“At first, we were just doing mission rosaries,” explained Kristin. Each of the sturdy rosaries with knots and plastic beads costs only about 11 cents to make.
The guild has sent literally thousands of them around the world — to India, Africa, and Latin America, to name a few.
Watching it grow
Susan and Troy Heppner and their kids —15-year-old Megan, 13-year-old Tommy, 11-year-old Michael and 9-year-old Jack — are regular attendees of the monthly guild meetings.
The Heppners, who are members of Prince of Peace Parish in Olathe, were among the founding families of the guild, Susan Heppner said.
Her dad made rosaries, and this has been a neat way to honor his memory after his death.
“It tickles me to see my kids following in their grandpa’s footsteps making these,” she said. The rosary was a big part of her family life as she grew up.
She sees making rosaries as a great way for any family to spend time together. And since her boys love working with their hands, they often make rosaries in their free time. They’ve even graduated from making the simple mission rosaries to creating nicer ones.
Pieces coming together
As rewarding as it is to contribute to people’s faith in so many places and ways, the shipping costs were adding up into the thousands for the Knights.
They began to think about marketing some of their nicer rosaries for sale.
At the same time, the family was also looking for ways to offset some of the costs of lessons and Irish dance materials for their kids.
They knew other groups — from youth groups to Irish dance schools — could use help with fundraising.
They found a way to bring it all under one umbrella — through their online business: www.halosandhornpipes.com.
The Irish-inspired website now offers products ranging from rosaries to religious items to soaps and candles and more.
Sales of the rosaries will fund the rosary guild’s efforts.
The site also provides information on fundraising sales for church and Irish dance groups. The business handles a lot of the advance work — without many upfront costs for the groups, Kristin said.
One such sale is coming up at Nativity before and after Masses the weekend of March 24-25, where the rosary guild will sell rosaries, sacrifice beads and rosary bracelets. Nativity’s youth group members will sell soaps — featuring Easter eggs and bunnies — at the same event to cover some of the costs of their upcoming Prayer and Action mission trip.
From their openness to life, to their work with the rosary, to the Christian ways in which they spend their time, said Heppner, the Knights are something special.
“They’re truly a witness of the Catholic faith,” she said.