As I begin to write this piece I notice some blue sky out the window. February in Chicago is not always this kind but I will take the sun shining through the bitterly cold air – for it reminds me that there is always something good to be found if we allow ourselves to see it. I found my friend Amy Kelly by accident and that accident has turned into a gift. I love her spirit, her tenacity, her outlook and her giant, wonderful Irish heart. I admire her courage, her family ties and her never yielding determination to do the right thing. She is just good people.
Amy coordinates and hosts a St. Baldrick’s Shave Event every year in Chicago. She does this to carry on the tradition her brother Sean started some years ago and to honor his memory. She throws what amounts to a HUGE party that ultimately raises tons of $$ for an organization that does outstanding work to kick childhood cancer in the ass. Check your calendar people – come out and join Amy and her friends and family for a day of celebration, remembrance and possibility.
LS: When and where is the event this year?
AK: Our St. Baldrick’s fundraising event will be held on Sunday March 13, 2016, at BAR 63 located at 6341 N Broadway in Chicago – 60660. (773)942-6269.
LS: What does St Baldrick’s really do?
AK: By working closely with leading pediatric oncologists, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation determines the most promising research to create funding priorities to make the greatest impact for children with cancer. St. Baldrick’s is completely volunteer driven. It is second only to the US Government in funding research and treatments for childhood cancers.
Some of the things St. Baldrick’s does:
- provides hospitals funds to open high impact clinical trials for rare disease types, placing more children in studies to increase rate of progress, while also increasing the likelihood for a child to receive the best treatment plan in a hospital close to home
- funds supportive care research to improve the quality of life for patients and survivors, addressing the side effects of treatment, long-term effects faced by survivors and the psychological aspects of childhood cancer
- funds researchers to work together so that the work currently underway by the best and brightest investigators is shared between institutions, giving all children a chance for a cure
St. Baldrick’s takes great care with every donor dollar, keeping their staff small, the expenses low and directing every possible dollar to childhood cancer research. (74% of every dollar going directly to funding, 22% towards fundraising efforts, like my event and 4% for their administrative overhead in California).
LS: Describe what Team Sean Kelly means to you.
AK: To me, Team Sean Kelly means inspiration, a whole lotta love and a huge sense of community. Sean was always part of something bigger, helping out in any way he could to give back, to be part of something more.
LS: What can people look forward to at your event this year?
AK: Ummm, the BEST party in Chicago this Spring! In all seriousness – be prepared to be inspired. Also, live music, live auction, head shaving, face painting, raffles, a possible photo booth – hell maybe even a “who wore it better” contest – as in the chrome dome.
LS: Tell me how your friends and family supports your efforts.
AK: Not only do my family and friends volunteer their time and donate $, my sister-in-law Laura (Sean’s wife) and a group of their friends, fly into town from California to help support this righteous cause.
LS: We know it takes a village to make things happen – do you have some sponsors you want to mention?
AK: This year I am proud to have the support of the Law Firm of TKK – Tomasik Kotin and Kasserman. One of TKK’s founding partners, Shawn Kasserman, is a very good, close family friend of mine and Sean. Organized Chaos Chicago has been a proud sponsor of Team Sean Kelly going on their 3rd year now. OCC members have generously volunteered their time and have provided a financial donation to the cause for the past 3 years as well. We are proud to have the support of R Public House, where the event has been held the past 2 years and Poitin Stil, whose staff have participated in the event and contributed financially the past 2 years. And lastly, Bar 63, our Host Venue this year, has donated their space for the event at no cost at all.
LS: It feels like even though more time has passed since losing Sean – you are somehow closer to him now – can you talk about that?
AK: Yeah, this year it has been 5 long years since Sean died. I can’t believe that. Hosting this event in Sean’s name gives me a sense of purpose and meaning. I can carry on his legacy through this foundation. With each year that passes, more people have caught Sean’s wave for this righteous cause. I feel like everyone has gotten to know Sean because of this event. It’s not the same as having him here, but it gives me a sense of “hey brother, you are never going to be forgotten, and your impact in this world mattered.”
I say it every year. I never met Sean Kelly. But I swear I love him. I swear I know what his laugh must have sounded like and what funny story he might have told when his eyes took on a certain glint. I swear I can see him, huddled with Amy in the corner and looking out over all the amazing work that is being done for the children with cancer and they are raising a glass to the good we can all do together.
There is so much heart – so much real love and hope that flows through the hours we spend together at Amy’s event each year – that when you go home afterwards – you know – beyond a shadow of a doubt that you were just a part of something magical – something far bigger than any one of us can possibly imagine. And – it is in that knowing that you too have just met and fell in love with Sean Kelly and you can’t wait to do it all over again next year.
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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.