Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — When someone who has helped others is in need, the local community steps up to show its support. With assistance from the Rainbow of Help, “Kelley’s Crusaders” are working to raise funds to help a Lockport man struggling with a serious illness.
Ken Kelley is no stranger to hard times. After youthful experimentation with alcohol and drugs, Kelley turned his life around and enjoyed decades of sobriety. That made him sensitive to the difficulties of addiction, and he reached out to many others referred to him throughout the years, helping them to face the demons and reclaim their lives. He was never too busy to counsel or aid someone in need.
As a self-employed contractor, Kelley is well-known in his Lockport community. Known as a good friend and neighbor, Kelley never refused to help others in need whenever he could. Life was rosy for Kelley and his three children until he fell from a roof during repairs to help a friend. The fall was a short one but the damage was lasting and extensive, requiring lengthy hospitalization. His leg was so mangled they needed to rebuild his ankle and foot with metal. Laid up for a long time, Kelley continued to work as much as he was able, even remodeling a home from a wheelchair.
Long-time family friend John Cole said “He never asked for a handout or assistance, just to be able to keep working. He was so determined; he would go to the site and roll himself around on an office chair to oversee the work.” Family and friends thought nothing would keep Kelley down. That is, until a doctor noticed that there was more going on with his gait than just a bad limp from his accident.
Several years ago, Kelley was diagnosed with ALS — Lou Gehrig’s disease. The onset of ALS is insidious, with muscle weakness or stiffness as early symptoms. Progression of weakness, wasting and paralysis of the muscles of the limbs and trunk, as well as those that control vital functions such as speech, swallowing and later breathing, generally follows. Although the life expectancy of an ALS patient averages about two to five years from the time of diagnosis, this disease is variable and many people live with quality for five years and more.
Kelley has managed to keep the disease progression at bay while living alone. His three grown children, Kristin, Katie and especially Kevin, have helped out as much as they are able. He is on a waiting list for housing that is adapted for a person with severe disabilities, but the wait is long. Despite heavy medications and muscle difficulties, Kelley remains optimistic and grateful for every day of life.
Friends and family have come together to plan a benefit for Kelley from 2 to 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Wrights Corners Fire Hall. The community is invited to the live auctions, Chinese auction and pasta dinner. Admission to the event is free. The dinner includes salad, spaghetti and meatballs, Italian bread, dessert and beverages and will be served from 3 to 7 p.m. — takeouts are also available. The donation price is $9 for adults, $5 for kids age 6 to 10. Kids 5 and under eat free.
There will be many great prize items available at the benefit, including eight tickets to Buffalo Sabres home games and a football autographed by Buffalo Bills hall-of-famer Joe DeLamielleure and Joe Furguson. For the live auction, only cash and valid checks will be accepted. There are more than 200 baskets for the Chinese auction. Tickets are $5 per card of 25. Drawings will begin at 5 p.m. and winners need not be present.
“Whenever I approached a local business for a donation, I was met with such generosity and support. The community has really stepped up to help in any way possible. It is good to be able to give back to such a kind, hard-working guy who has helped so many others.” The event will also feature 50/50 drawings and a large prize raffle,” Cole said.
Kelley’s Crusaders, Rainbow of Help, Wrights Corners Fire Co. and Thrivent are sponsors of the benefit, with all proceeds going to assist Kelley with outstanding medical bills and adaptive needs and medical equipment as his disease progresses. Prize donations are still being accepted. Monetary donations may be made via PayPal or credit card at www.kelleyscrusaders.org. For information or dinner tickets, or to make a donation, contact Mike Little at 417-6729 or Mike Hare at 628-4890.