Nominated by friend Denise Bryant because "I am in awe of how much she is able to give, and I am so proud to call her my friend."
Kelcey came into my life five years ago, when she and her family first moved to our area. We bonded right away because we’re both military wives. Kelcey and I have been through the same kinds of challenges: moving frequently, having to parent solo while our spouse is overseas, and everything else that comes along with this life. Now we even work together in a local bank’s marketing department. Kelcey’s family became part of our family.
Right away, I was impressed because Kelcey has such a strong, positive attitude. You might think there’s a lot that’s hard about her life, but she doesn’t see it that way. She appreciates everything that is great about military life—how it has given her family opportunities to travel the world and explore different places and cultures. As a result, she’s constantly looking for ways to give back to the military. In 2011 she launched Kids Rank, a nonprofit that provides children of all of the military branches the ability to serve their community through volunteer opportunities just as their parents serve our country. In the past two years, Kelcey has coordinated countless hours of volunteer service projects at various nonprofits in the Chicago area, and she has plans to expand nationwide. She has had children paint an inner-city school, make cards for veterans at the VA hospital, donate and sort books at a children’s book bank and volunteer and plant crops at Freedom Farm for Vets in Wadsworth. And that’s just the start of the list! The kids earn badges for different activities—which helps them feel good about their contributions and instills confidence.
As if that weren’t impressive enough, Kelcey coordinates all those efforts while raising her two girls largely alone, serving as secretary of their school’s parent-teacher organization and working full time. She fits in all her volunteer work first thing in the morning or late at night—I don’t know when she sleeps! And she funds Kids Rank mostly out of her small weekly paycheck from the bank. I am in awe of how much she is able to give, and I am so proud to call her my friend.
In Her Words
Q What made you launch Kids Rank?
A It started as a clothing line! I made T-shirts based on the designs of military ribbons—which would celebrate the different positive qualities that military kids have, like bravery. I soon realized that I didn’t really want to sell the shirts. I wanted to spread awareness about the idea behind the clothes—which is that military kids have so much to offer our community. They often get painted as victims, but most don’t have that “woe
is me, I’m a military kid” attitude at all. I realized that Kids Rank could give them a chance to help others in need—and
that would help them recognize how extraordinary they really are because of their unusual upbringing.
Q You work full time, raise your daughters and run Kids Rank. How do you get it all done?
A I like to be busy. Working constantly with kids on various projects like making parachute-cord bracelets [pictured below] makes the time fly, so it’s easier to endure long separations from my husband, Rudy, while he’s deployed. My daughters stay busy, too, attending all the Kids Rank events with me. Being in the military has made them resilient. For example, my younger daughter went to three different schools during her kindergarten year. I was so worried, but she did not miss a beat. She made new friends everywhere she went.
Q What advice would you give a military spouse facing her family’s first deployment?
A Put yourself out there. During my husband’s first deployment, I moved from Philadelphia to Virginia by myself, and I really had to work to make connections
in our new community. But there are tons of resources for military spouses and kids, and it’s worth it to take advantage of them, both because you really do need the support and because this is how we build community.