Finn Kelly is an adventurous, fun-loving and easy-going kid. When he skis, the faster the better, his mother says. And when it is summer, you can’t get the eight-year-old out of the pool. His three siblings share the same love of sports, but there is one difference between Finn his family.
Finn was born 11 weeks early, suffered a brain injury and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a condition that affects the brain’s messages to the body. People with CP are affected in various ways and degrees. CP has left Finn unable to walk or talk. And while he can understand what is going on around him to a degree, communication can be difficult and frustrating, the family says.
His siblings, Dillon, Tatum and Shane, smile fondly when they talk about Finn and they have been committed to giving him a full and active life. But spending time with him and caring for him did not feel like enough. They want to do what they can to help find cure for his condition and to spread awareness about CP.
“We want to get more people to appreciate (Finn) for who he is and to just know the facts about CP,” Dillon Kelly, a Rye High School junior, said.
Over the last few months, they have raised more than $30,000 for the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation (CPIRF), an organization that funds research to find a cure for CP that has recently lost some government funding. They have also organized a “Team Finn” of 12 friends and family members to run in the third annual Sleepy Hollow half marathon on March 23. They expect about 75 Team Finn cheerleaders to motivate the runners along their 13.5 mile race as well.
Dillon and his sister Tatum, an RHS freshmen, started their efforts by forming the team and setting a goal to raise $10,000 through their website HelpforFinn, created in January. The website currently shows they have raised $8,400 towards their $10,000 goal, but they have raised an additional $20,000 outside of the website thanks to generous friends and family.
“We are lucky to live in Rye where neighbors come together to support one another,” the Kellys said.
The whole family is surprised by their quick fundraising success, originally thinking their efforts would yield a small donation to the CPIRF.
They say it really kicked off when their church, The Church of the Resurrection in Rye, told the congregation and then strangers started donating as well. CPIRF itself has also helped spread the word about their efforts too.
“What started out as a walk became so big,” Shane Kelly, 10, told her mother, Ellie.
Ellie and her husband Tim are both big runners, which inspired the kids to choose to fundraise through the race in the first place.
Ellie and Dillon will run in the Sleepy Hollow race on March 24 and Ellie will push Finn along with her for the last mile. The Kellys are not sure if Finn completely understands what they are doing for him, but he has seen the “Team Finn” t-shirts Shane and Tatum designed for him and has heard the chatter.
“I think he will know it is for him at the race,” Dillon said.
The Kelly’s have had some experience with charitable causes and helping others in the past, but this is their first fundraising effort for their brother’s cause. Three years ago, working with the Global Medical Research organization, Dillon’s CCD class, taught by his mother, raised $2,500 to help children injured in the 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti and others injured in Iraq. The family even hosted two Haitian sisters while they were in the country for treatment of amputations caused by the earthquake.
The Kellys have also been very active with cerebral palsy groups like the Miracle League, which helps kids with the condition play baseball, and the Shriners hospital, which treats afflicted children for free.
On top of it all, Dillon, Tatum and Shane play variety of sports at school and are active in their church.
To donate to the Kelly’s cause, click here.