Kidd Kraddick was one of the most popular disc jockeys ever in North Texas. His syndicated show, "Kidd Kraddick in the Morning," was produced in Kraddick's Irving studio and reached millions across the country.
When Kraddick died suddenly in July 2013 from a heart condition, it brought fans to tears. The one it hurt most was his only child — his daughter, Caroline.
“I cannot believe it's been four years soon, but I remember the day I found out my father passed like it was yesterday," she said. "And I remember the year after that like it was yesterday."
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The resemblance between father and daughter is right there in the chin, the brown eyes, the smile. And as we sit and talk in her apartment in uptown Dallas, the connection is also present in her sense of humor and lightheartedness.
It shows as she describes the décor in her apartment.
“I think everyone is always like, ‘What is up with the elephants?’ I love elephants; they're super good luck," Caroline said. "And I think it's just good juju to have them around."
She also thinks it’s good to have a lot of pink in her place.
“I love pink. It's kind of a man's worst nightmare to be in this apartment, but yeah, I love it,” she laughed.
Caroline, now 27, is comfortable in her own skin and embraces where she is in life.
“It’s kind of a weird moment when you realize, ‘Oh, my gosh, I just put my big girl panties on,” she says with another big laugh.
Caroline will tell you it’s been a journey getting to this point.
In July 2013, she was 23 and in New York with her mom and some friends to audition for The Voice on NBC. The call that would change her life came just after hours after the plane landed.
“I was walking around and was like, 'I think I need to move to New York. I think that's what I’m going to do.’ And then, four hours later, I got the call my dad had passed away,” she said.
“I was just kinda like, stunned. And everyone else is living their life, and walking and getting from point A to point B...I wanted to scream, 'The worst thing just happened to me, how is everyone still going?’ It’s a surreal experience to be in a place like that when you get that type of news,” she recalled.
Caroline spent that first year doing what she says was “an eat, pray, love thing for a year. Any invite I would get from friends, I would take it.”
An invitation from a friend in Nashville led to a year’s stay as she chased the music career she so wanted. Eventually, though, she found her way back to Dallas and to the place where she now believes she was meant to be: running Kidd’s Kids, the nonprofit her dad founded in her honor.
“Twenty-three is a weird funky age to begin with, and you're trying to figure out who you are, and to have this thrust at me was so hard," Caroline said.
"So, it wasn't a direct line for me to Kidd’s Kids. I knew I wanted to do it, but then it was like, 'I need to be away, I need to be in Nashville and do my music and sing and do all that.' And now I can't imagine doing anything else. And I really do feel like this is my purpose.”
Caroline’s title at Kidd’s Kids is Chief Happiness Officer.
“I’m not your typical CEO," she said. "You're not gonna look at me and say I’m a normal looking CEO, so Chief Happiness Officer is what I do. I make kids happy.”
That was the goal of Kidd’s Kids when it started in 1991 — to bring happiness to sick children, aged five to 12, with a trip to Walt Disney World. In June, Caroline will put her own stamp on the foundation by giving teenagers with life-altering conditions their own magical experience.
“When I came on board, I said we need to be doing more and reaching more people. So that's where the teen trip came in,” she explained. “Teenagers need that bright light, too.”
Caroline made another big change since her dad’s death. She changed her last name from C to K.
“My last name Cradick is originally C-r-a-d-i-c-k,” she spelled. “I lived a life of anonymity. I really did. My parents were really good about protecting me from all the things my dad dealt with being a celebrity. Even when I was at school in Oklahoma, not a lot of people knew.”
But last year, Caroline decided she wanted to honor her dad and be more connected to him.
“I kinda resisted the whole Cradick with the K, 'cause it just means something else. It's my dad's radio name. For me, taking that on meant I was embracing all that's happening to me, and it's all good stuff,” she said “So, it felt good to do that and, I felt like I did it in his honor.”
The good stuff she talks about includes a team helping her grow her own brand and grow Kidd’s Kids. And it’s in all that good stuff where Caroline misses her dad the most.
“And that's the hardest part of him not being here, 'cause I lost my best friend," she said tearfully. "It gets easier, it definitely does. But it's not ever going to be the same. And I feel like I deal with it, and I do the best that I can, but it's not easy. I am happy every day, I really am, but then there's these little moments when I’m like, ‘Gosh, I’m doing so much, and I love my life”, and I want to be able to share that with him, and I can't.”
Caroline often sits and plays at the piano her parents got her in the second grade.
“That’s my passion, that heals me, too,” she said. “I feel like I can sit at that and pour my heart out and have those moments."
She says her love of music comes from her dad, as does positivity and a deep sense of gratitude.
“He really felt grateful every single day for all he got to do with the foundation, his radio career, with our family, so I try to bring that into my life. And, I really am just so grateful every day.”