Catherine Kelly, Opening Address
John Skipper Kelly Fund Cocktail Party
28 March 2018

We thank you for adding the John Skipper Kelly Fund to your annual calendar’s. Thank you to our host John Canning once again in this breathtaking venue. Welcome Jane Jose, CEO of The Sydney Community Foundation. Thank you to our advisory panel – Michael Traill, Rochelle Sidoti, and John Atkin. Welcome to our fund recipients – Sue Lennox from Oz Green, here with us tonight. Welcome to our volunteers Lily Wood, Jess Kelly and Josh Kelly. And just like the infamous Paul Kelly Song the brothers have come down from Queensland. Welcome and thank you to our generous sponsors whose fabulous gifts of holidays, jewellery, harbour boat trips, wine, artworks, and experiences form the majority of our fundraising.

On 30th December 2010 when I received the call from Charles to say John had fallen and died – climbing together in the Blue Mountains at Mt Piddington our lives changed irrevocably. That night I felt the hooves of a hundred horses trampling me and I developed a deep ache in my heart that endured for many months. I drowned in tears, and an ever increasing pile of books on my bedside table were devoted to coping with the Grief. I found solce in the Poem Beannacht by John O’Donohue, and Leunigs Saying – “Let It out , Let it out, and that will be the path on which you will travel” became my mantra.

It became clear I was clinically depressed, and suffering from the now formally recognised condition Broken Heart Syndrome. The combination of the loss of the love of my life of over 30 years and the father of our 3 beautiful children, the shock to his amazing friends, and of course his own dear family, simply magnified this feeling of hopelessness and despair.

I could not have imagined (and nor could have John) the overwhelming depth of love and support we received from the many many friends he had made in his lifetime. The enormous bunches of flowers arrived daily filling our home and Ben succumbed to hayfever which gave me a rare moment of clarity that perhaps we could direct the funds spent on flowers towards some of the caused John was so passionate about. Michael Traill and John Atkin with their vast experience were pivotal in championing the idea and their timely support and advice made it a reality. With their generosity, expertise, and mentoring we established the John Skipper Kelly fund.

I set myself a goal of 3 achievements per day (often 1 was getting out of bed). Gradually the paralysis faded and I could begin to focus on making plans. I learned too that Grief wasn’t something I would magically get over or move on from. I learned that loss is something that would live with me and be by my side – a part of me.

Each of us discovered our path to coping- running, music, creativity and raising funds. It was a huge challenge to dig deep, and find what I had to offer the world and continue to live a wonderful life. My greatest challenge and concern was to be an example to Ben, Tess, and James, and to approach each day with energy and purpose. I learned to own the decisions I struggled to make, to accept my own shortcomings and failed expectations. I am beyond grateful for the friends who listened, who gave discerning advice.

This week is Johns birthday week – and there is not a single day goes by when I don’t wonder why, wonder what might have been, what his advice would have been, and wonder if that loud bird is Johns spirit urging me to get out of bed.

It is however Ben, Tess, and James who have shown me the way. They have each taken responsibily for their lives, achieving their dreams and goals. They have one anothers backs, and strive to be the very best version of themselves. I could not be more proud. Hence my #proudmum hashtag. Tess is the Fund manager- organising events, and fundraising opportunities, Ben’s role has been to liaise with the Funds recipients, and James is our charismatic and capable logistics manager. The miles covered in the family Toyata Prado (aka the climate changer) to music, speech and drama, and sports sessions have been repaid in double. One of my proudest moments was last year running the last km of the 100km North Face Challenge with Ben and James in the Blue Mountains and talking with Tess (who was in Darwin with her foot in a moon boot). We felt Johns spirit with us, reminding us to Dig Deep, find our passion, and run with our gut feeling, and to everyday just do something that leaves the world a better place.

We still have much to achieve but your support of our fund helps us to maintain Johns legacy.