Once upon a time there was a boy named Sean – and he had a sister named Amy. The Kelly kids grew up in a big old Irish household in Chicago where they got into some trouble and had a ton of fun. They had an amazing family that centered around the faith and love of their parents – Ed and Laurette. It has become obvious to me that the whole Kelly Clan must have learned very early that kindness matters, communities are worth supporting, and reaching out to those in need is not only expected, but it is simply the right thing to do.
Life took Sean to California where his heart and generous spirit steered him toward work in the faith community as well as supporting causes near and dear to his heart. One of these causes was St. Baldrick’s – a foundation driven by and focused on funding the research needed to once and for all eradicate the words “childhood cancer” from our vocabulary. This army, which is volunteer driven, has raised more money and provided more private funding for research than any other organization – except the US Government. That is a hell of an accomplishment for what started as a challenge between friends in 2000 and has since raised over $120,000,000.00.
In November 2010, Sean was returning from a surfing trip when his plane crashed and took him from this world. Amy told me once it was simply the hardest thing she has ever had to deal with. But through her grief and her love of her beautiful brother Amy decided to start something. She decided to pick up where Sean left off regarding St. Baldrick’s and last year held her very first fundraising event. To call it a success would be an understatement.
The tradition rocks on today, and the 2nd Annual St. Baldrick’s Team Sean Kelly head shaving fundraiser is less than 2 weeks away. This year’s event will be held on Saturday, March 2, 2013, at The Glenwood Bar from 1pm – 5pm. The Glenwood is located at 6962 N. Glenwood Ave., Chicago, IL 60626. (Rogers Park – Morse stop off the Red line “L”). You can look forward not only to supporting an amazing foundation but to having one hell of a great afternoon. There will be one of a kind raffle prizes and fantastic silent auction items, food, drink specials, face painting for the kids and about 20 or so shavees on hand! Amy and her cousin, Bill Ande, will be playing a set of music along with some other special guests. If I am certain of anything (and God knows I think I am certain of everything) I know that wherever you find Amy Kelly, you are destined to find some fun.
I asked Amy how this year’s event will differ from last year’s:
“Man, last year I didn’t know what the heck I was getting into – I mean, I did, but I didn’t know what to expect. I feel like Sean set this wave into motion and this year it has just gotten bigger and bigger and I am just riding it, picking up the goodness it brings along its way. Last year I had no idea the impact and power of the force Sean’s wave would bring…..this year I do. I mean last year was amazing and this year is even more so, because the generosity of people with their time, ideas, money, contributions and spirit, for a cause that benefits kids is amazing. It is the best kind of overwhelming feeling that one can possibly feel. This year we have a 7 year old named Jalen shaving his head! He has raised over $350 (his goal was $200) and is telling everyone he knows that he is helping kids with cancer. I call him our resident Shawty! Also this year, a friend I haven’t seen since high school contacted me to tell me her daughter, Jackie, was diagnosed in 2005 at the age of 4 with advanced ALL – Acute Lymphoblastic Lukemia. She is now 11 and cancer free, but her oncologist told her that without organizations like St. Baldrick’s, 30 years ago, Jackie would not have made it. My shave is for Jackie – she is my inspiration. I think this year is different because more and more people are catching Sean’s wave. More people are involved and want to be part of something bigger than themselves. And more people are sharing their own personal stories, like my friend Michelle and her daughter Jackie.”
The excitement is building and Amy wants the word to get out. She wants this event to take on a life of its own because of all the good it truly generates. “People can contribute or volunteer in many ways: they can help spread the word not only about this event but also about St. Bladrick’s foundation. They can donate monetarily or donate their time to our event or the organization by clicking here. Or they can contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like more information.
When you mention Sean’s name to Amy there is a glint in those eyes and a smile in her voice that cannot be mistaken. I wondered what her brother would have thought of all this fundraising Amy has been doing in his memory. “I think Sean would be proud of me – he is proud of me. Organizations like St. Baldrick’s were near and dear to his heart because of the type of organization it is. Sean loved kids and he was such a giving, kind, generous and hilarious person and always stepped up to help out for a cause. Cancer has affected our family and many of our close friends, as our sister Sarah is a breast cancer survivor. I think in some ways many of us can say we have been affected by the big “C” – directly or indirectly. He would think this is unbelievably cool. When he did his shave in March of 2010, he told me how inspiring it was to see these little kids there, bald and going through chemo, coming up to him after he shaved his head saying “cool” and rubbing his head. He said, that was the reason for doing it right there, the kids battling this. Gives me chills thinking about it.”
When a cause becomes personal, it breathes a life of its own somehow. Momentum builds and positive vibes bring more positive vibes. Strangers become friends and friends become family – and so much good begins to be done; sort of like a magical, mystical real life miracle wave rolling out right in front of our eyes. This is a wave that a man I never met has intended for me to ride – Sean Kelly paddled out to the quiet water so we could turn towards shore, feel the calm and refuse to bail out. We jump on the big gun; tie our baggies tight and from the outside break we prepare to ride the mongo wave all the way into the sunny shore. No wipe outs….no sand facials on this set. It’s just a totally notorious ride brah…with good friends and a cool brew waiting for us when we arrive…..probably just the way Sean would have imagined…..
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About K. Guzman
Kathy grew up all over the US - lots of east coast time. She is a surfer girl with an unabridged curiosity. A woman whose mid life awakening continues to bring her to the place she was meant to be. Her degree in Journalism/Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida is being yanked from the archives and put to good use. Her two kids are grown and rock stars in this wild world – her Harley is ready for some serious summer miles – and her heart remains open to life, women and the possibilities each day brings.