CATTARAUGUS - Have a conversation with Jill Kelly and one of the first things she'll tell you is that public speaking is definitely out of her comfort zone.
One would never be able to deduce that fact, as more than 250 women from all walks of life from Cattaraugus and the surrounding area gathered at the Roberts Free Methodist Church recently for the church's annual Spring Ladies Night, where Mrs. Kelly was the featured speaker.
"Jim is the one with the platform, the forum and the experience in speaking to large groups of people," Mrs. Kelly said. "You have to know that me doing this is totally God. It's something I would never do."
Jim and Jill Kelly are pictured in this photo from the University of Buffalo when the Kellys were honored wiht the university’s Community Leadership Award in March.
Kelly held the room at rapt attention as she spoke in depth about her romance, and subsequent marriage to the Jim Kelly, former Buffalo Bills' quarterback, the births of their children Erin, Hunter and Camryn, and Hunter's diagnosis of Krabbe's leukodystrophy early in infancy, and the struggles and the joys the family has experienced.
"Without a Word - How a Boy's Unspoken Love Changed Everything" is Kelly's inspirational memoir. The book has earned a spot on the New York Times Bestseller list and is now available in soft cover, hard cover and in e-book form. She has also authored "Prayers of Hope For the Brokenhearted" and "Prayers For Those Who Grieve" - both created from prayers she recorded in her personal journals.
As they experienced the affliction and death of their only son, Hunter, who was born on Valentine's Day and Jim's birthday, the Kellys discovered that many states perform newborn screening only on treatable diseases, of which Leukodystrophy is not one. They have since founded the Hunter's Hope Foundation to raise awareness and money to research the disease. They have lobbied in several states to change legislation regarding newborn screening for all diseases, not just those which are treatable.
As Mrs. Kelly was speaking in Cattaraugus, Jim Kelly was lobbying in Tennessee.
Mrs. Kelly stayed at the event until all those who wished to purchase books did, and spent much time autographing the books as she spoke and prayed with those who desired some one on one time with her.