Meet the Team – Kelly

Kelly’s own struggle with a rare condition, along with her family’s experiences, led her to support Sparks.

Now she’s training to take on the London Marathon for the charity, to “give back to an organisation that could have an impact on the lives of children with complex conditions, and their families”.

A big move from New York to London 

After running the New York Marathon in 2015, Kelly moved to London. But as she settled into life in the capital, she discovered she had a rare stomach disease. 

Kelly says: “Since moving to London, one of my goals is to run the London Marathon but, since being here, I’ve had a number of personal struggles to cope with. 

“One has been a rare stomach disease that affected my health and physical and mental wellbeing for some time. They suspected I was born with this rare disease. 

“If only I’d known about this disease earlier, it might have been prevented from getting to this point. This is where my support for Sparks and the incredible work it does comes in.” 

Inspired to fundraise 

When Kelly felt healthier and stronger following pioneering surgery, she discovered Sparks and decided to support the charity because of her own experience with a rare disease.  

Another reason for her connection to the charity was: “Sparks also focuses on conditions such as cancer and Down’s syndrome, which my family has been affected by. My amazing cousin Jeff was born with Down’s syndrome, and my cousin Ryan passed away from cancer at 20 years old. 

“And, as a soccer player for most of my life, I love that the charity’s name stands for 'Sports People Aiding Research for Kids,' was started by football/soccer legend Jimmy Hill and has held lots of sports-associated fundraising.” 

The importance of research 

Kelly empathises with families who can wait years for their child’s rare condition to be diagnosed. She says: “Every doctor told me I was fine –  but I was in such a difficult position because I knew I wasn’t fine. 

“If you have the research and the knowledge behind the condition, it gives you some peace of mind and you’re able to decide the next step.” 

Finding a balance 

Kelly currently works for a start-up and is studying for a Master’s degree in Spain, making it harder to find time to train for the marathon.  

“It’s crazy juggling work, the Masters and then running, but training’s going well. 

“I’m healthy now and it will make me feel really good, giving back. I’m trying to connect that with raising money.” 

Goals for the Marathon 

After fighting a hip injury for two years, Kelly’s being kind to herself with her marathon training schedule. She adds: “I’m trying my best to be patient. I just want to finish it and have a nice experience.” 

Imagining crossing the finish line, she says: “I think, for me, it will be a lot more than just finishing a race. It’ll be a culmination of a long, positive and negative journey; moving to the UK, getting through my health challenges and giving back to an organisation that could have an impact on children’s lives.” 

Good luck, Kelly, and thank you for sharing your story with us!