A chance to smile again

Boys and girls won’t be able to see Kelly Donohue Mulholland during their adventures. But the former
"Children were her passion. Even when she was sick, she wanted to get better to help kids in some way," said Mark Mulholland, talking about his late wife, Kelly.
"Children were her passion. Even when she was sick, she wanted to get better to help kids in some way," said Mark Mulholland, talking about his late wife, Kelly.

Categories: Life & Arts

Some kids will watch the Red Sox swing the bats in Boston.

Others will chuckle at clowns chasing balloons at backyard parties. Still more will shout as The Comet makes a summer rush down roller coaster tracks at the Great Escape amusement park.


Boys and girls won’t be able to see Kelly Donohue Mulholland during their adventures. But the former Saratoga Springs school teacher, who died of cancer in 2007, will be cheering, laughing and screaming along with them.

That’s how Wilton resident Mark Mulholland sees Kelly’s Angels, Inc., a new charity named for his wife that will provide financial grants to kids who have lost a parent to cancer. He believes day trips and small parties will give children saddened by loss a chance to smile again.

Mulholland said Kelly, mother of Connor, 10, and McKenna, 8, would have loved the idea.

“Children were her passion,” said Mulholland, who covers Saratoga and North Country news for Menands television station WNYT. “Even when she was sick, she wanted to get better to help kids in some way. I thought, ‘What better way to honor her memory than to help children who have gone through something similar to what our children went through?’ ”

May 22 gala

Mulholland and friends will raise funds for the nonprofit group next Saturday at the Kelly’s Angels Gala at the Fort William Henry Resort in Lake George. Tickets are $50; the night will include food, silent and live auctions, and entertainment by The Audiostars. Sponsorship opportunities begin at $250 and rise to $2,000, and all include complimentary tickets.

Tickets can be purchased by e-mailing [email protected] People interested in donating to the auctions are asked to contact Lydia Kulbida at [email protected], or telephoning her at 461-3851.

Kelly Mulholland was 32 and a teacher at Geyser Road Elementary School in Saratoga Springs when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003. There had been no family history of cancer.

Treatment helped, and the Mulhollands thought the crisis was over. Kelly was back teaching in 2004 and 2005, but began experiencing pain in her sternum. Cancer had returned, and spread to her lungs and bones.

“Kelly never focused on ‘What if Mommy doesn’t get better,’ ” Mulholland said. “It was always, ‘When Mommy gets better.’ My son used to say he was going to do a silly dance around our entire neighborhood when Mommy was all better.”

Kelly Mulholland died Oct. 17, 2007. She was 37 years old.

“To have to sit down at my kitchen table one day in October, two and a half years ago, and tell Connor and McKenna that Mommy was going to heaven soon was something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy,” Mulholland said. “It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do.”

The kids had never had to consider an unhappy ending. “Kelly insisted that we focus all our energy on getting better,” Mulholland said. “She didn’t want to have that conversation. . . . We didn’t talk about the what-ifs.”

‘This is all about fun’

Mulholland said many cancer foundations raise money for research and finding a cure for the disease.

“There’s not a lot being done to help those who are left behind, especially children,” he said. “What better way to help those kids in need? This is all about fun. The goal is just to brighten the lives of kids who have seen some pretty dark days.”

Mulholland said the Angels’ board of directors — which includes Kulbida, Mark Behan of Behan Communications of Glens Falls and Albany, Benita Zahn, and Kevin and Laura Bouyea — is still working out the dollar amount for the grants. He expects it will be around $300, with the first financial gifts awarded later this year.

Mulholland said his sports-active children — Connor plays baseball, McKenna is a soccer whiz — also will learn something as Kelly’s Angels begins its missions.

“This is a teachable moment for my kids,” Mulholland said. “I have an opportunity to show them we can help others much the same way people helped us. Kelly was all about the teachable moment, and this is certainly one.”

Kelly, a 1988 graduate of Glens Falls High School, taught third and fourth grades at Geyser Road. Mulholland remembers days when school janitors had to tell the young woman she had to leave her classroom. The school day was long over.

“She wanted to have her room as bright and colorful and welcoming as she possibly could,” Mulholland said.

Her students noticed. And remembered.

A lasting impression

Mulholland said he and his children carried the torch in the 2009 American Cancer Society “Relay for Life” in Saratoga Springs. Three young people separately approached the family and told Mark and the kids Kelly had been their favorite teacher.

“That certainly put a smile on my face, and the kids like hearing stories like that, too,” Mulholland said.

Kelly’s Angels is expected to put kids in good moods. Mulholland can imagine his wife smiling, too.

“Something that put a smile on kids’ faces would put a smile on hers,” he said.

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