Kristi Kelly created Lilies of the Valley as a support group in 2004, but it has grown into so much more: an offer of opportunity, hope, and inspiration to those affected by ovarian cancer. Kelly has become educated about ovarian cancer through her husband's involvement with it. She has seen some of the strongest women in the world through his patients: they are determined, faithful and resolute in beating their disease. She has also seen the fear and loneliness created by a rare and stealthy illness, and the physical struggles of fighting it.
Kelly’s interest in Lilies of the Valley is not a just personal crusade for a cause; it is based on real-life interaction with victims of a disease that leaves her shocked at its cruelty. When Kelly first moved to North Alabama, she was dismayed to find that there was no opportunity for her to volunteer at the local ovarian cancer support group, for there was no group available in this region. Dedicated and persistent, Kelly decided to start one. She educated herself about the disease, reading her husband's journal articles and attending conferences held by reputable national organizations such as the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, the Gynecologic Cancer Foundation, the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. In 2004, in recognition of Gynecologic Cancer Awareness Month, she launched a local media campaign to solicit members for an ovarian cancer support group. Under her direction, they launched the traditional support group. The survivors, however, needed more than just support. They wanted to reach out and make others aware of ovarian cancer. They wanted opportunities for advocacy.
In 2005, Kelly took steps to make the group official, filing for incorporation, turning it into a nonprofit organization, establishing a Board of Directors and a separate Medical Advisory Board. Kelly does not lead the group from a distance. She leads the caregivers group, facilitates the book discussion group, counsels the outreach and advocacy efforts and she is the president of the Board of Directors. She rarely misses a function and she takes a personal interest in the lives of the survivors themselves, learning about their children and grandchildren, sending them personal well-wishes and loving them like her own family.
The group itself is dynamic, positive, inspiring, uplifting. But even more impressive is Kelly’s dedication and determination to turn her small act of goodwill into a much bigger stronghold in our community. She has no medical background, but she has turned her skill set into an incredible resource for the medical community and she has given her heart to a group of women who are in great need of support. Even more amazing is that she founded the group while her child was only a few months old, and she’s continued to preside over it through the birth of our second baby. She is involved in other areas of our community as well, participating in our church, a community Bible study, the county medical alliance and serving on a local medical center's advisory council.