I look forward to March each and every year. Let’s just say the name was once O’Donnell – the soda bread bakes brown and soaks up the Kerrygold – green beer kind of sort of runs through my veins, spring crawls a little closer to my Harley loving soul and my friend Amy Kelly gets the party started with her annual St. Baldrick’s Fundraiser. This year – on March 1, 2014 to be exact – Amy and friends are taking over the streets with a heated party tent and festival atmosphere to once again raise funds to fight childhood cancer. Amy was good enough to share some thoughts with me recently and I simply had to pass this along…..
The L Stop: It wouldn’t be March without your St. Baldricks Fundraising Event – tell us how this all got started:
Amy Kelly: Well, about 3 years ago, I had a thought about following in Sean’s footsteps and shaving my head for St. Baldrick’s because he had been a shavee. Then I thought, wait… I can actually host an event through the foundation for these kids in his memory, as a legacy and way to honor him and the kind of person he was. (As a note to all – Sean Kelly was Amy’s brother who was tragically killed in an airplane crash not so very long ago).
TLS: Hard to believe this is the third year for you – how has the event changed in your mind?
AK: I never knew childhood cancer affected so many people whom I have encountered in my own personal life, let alone people I do not even know that have been affected by it. The event has become something bigger than I could have ever possibly imagined, because the sheer support of the community, friends and family. The wave man, the surf. A wave picks up everything with its movement, it builds, rises, crests, rolls in and rolls out, is massive and powerful and people want to catch it and ride it again and again. The enthusiasm is contagious. The sheer force of kindness and humanity is something I never imagined to this extent. I feel like this event is a wave, with the way people want to be involved, the sense of community – it is massive and powerful.
TLS: What is special about this year’s event?
AK: We are gonna pull off a street festival during the polar vortex man. We have a massive heated tent for all the shaves and festivities to take place. And it happens to be on Sean and my Dad’s birthday. THAT is special. (LS – For me – this is classic Amy Kelly – taking a traditional Chicago summer festival vibe and smacking it dab in the middle of this crazy ass polar vortex Chiberia and making something amazing come from it).
TLS: Where and when is event being held?
AK: Saturday, March 1, 2014, from 12p – 5pm-ish at R Public House, 1508 W Jarvis (Jarvis Square, Rogers Park), Chicago, IL 60626.
TLS: Tell us about sponsors/raffles etc.
AK: We have some amazing sponsors who helped us secure the tent and get the permit for the street closure. Organized Chaos, Renee Labrana/R Public House, Poitin Stil, Argus Brewery, Pam Plotkin/North Clybourn Group, Charlie Jones/Lane Custom Framing, Ltd., Miller Lite, Guinness, Taste Wine, Towbar (all on Jarvis Square) and Ald. Joe Moore. We also have amazing prizes: Blackhawks, White Sox, Cubs and Northwestern Football tickets, booze baskets, Jagermeister swag, Argus Brewery Swag, Miller Lite swag, wine baskets, Starbucks baskets, t -shirts, restaurant gift certificates, beach coolers, hotel stays, local art, and a 50/50 raffle. The event will also have activities for the kids, face painting and Rogers Park’s very own Miss Amy Leigh will be doing some kids music. My band will play a set to bring the event to a close – so – from start to finish – we have something for everyone!!
TLS: How can people get involved with your efforts?
TLS: Legacy is a powerful word – and I see yours and Sean’s interwoven in so many ways – how does that connection drive you?
AK: Sean was my soul twin. There isn’t a day that goes by that I do not miss him or think about him. He was a very special person, and had a way of bringing people together. He loved and lived life to the fullest. I wear a band on my wrist since Sean was killed that reads: “WWSD” – What Would Sean Do. Sean was about being part of something bigger than himself – he had a way of dismissing all ego. For him it was about being a giving, kind person – really – nothing more. The wave and surf are there, I am just trying to encourage people to jump in and catch it. It is an amazing feeling. I want people to know Sean Kelly because I wouldn’t be half the person I am today if he wasn’t part of my life.
I have said it many times before – and I will say it again. I never knew Sean Kelly – but I sure wish I had. And then I catch myself and realize – of course I know him. He is the glint in Amy’s eyes and the free flowing crazy laugh that pours out from her heart. He is in the faces of every shavee – and every volunteer that spend their day fundraising at Amy’s event for St. Baldrick’s, fighting the fight against childhood cancer.
Amy told me that one of Sean’s favorite books was “The Giving Tree” and that made me smile. I don’t often believe the hype about having to love ourselves above all else –as a mother, daughter, lover and friend – I find it impossible most days to love myself most of all. I think maybe Amy Kelly mightfeel the same way when it comes to her friends and family, her music and her causes – and especiallywhen it comes to Sean. To quote from Shel Silverstein’s book, “… and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.”
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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.