Here at LiveMom, we love meeting new moms (and dads) doing interesting things around town. Our monthly Feature series give us an excuse to learn more about these hardworking Austinites! This month’s feature is Kelli Kelley, founder of preemie family champion Hand To Hold. I met Kelli through friends who are preemie mamas, and got to know her much better when she joined the cast of this year’s Listen To Your Mother show in Austin. She is a kind and lovely woman with a heart that leads her to serve the community, and she has a passion for helping people. Thanks to Howdy Honda for supporting local mamas by sponsoring our monthly Local Mama Feature series.
LiveMom: How long have you lived in Austin, and what brought you here?
Kelli: I arrived in Austin in 1990 to attend the University of Texas at Austin.
LiveMom: How many kids do you have, and what are their ages?
Kelli: Two Children – Jackson, age 16, and Lauren, age 14. Both born preterm. Jackson was born at 24 weeks and weighted 1.8 pounds. Lauren was born at 34 weeks with a blood disorder.
LiveMom: What is your idea of a perfect day with the family in Austin?
Kelli: A day on the boat on Lake Travis.
LiveMom: If you had 24 hours to yourself in Austin, how would you spend it?
Kelli: I doubt I would spend it alone. I am not much of a loner. I would much prefer a special night/day out with my husband or girlfriends! I would love to try Ziplining, or a bar crawl or canoeing on Town Lake!
LiveMom: What do you like best about Austin? What would you change, if you could?
Kelli: I would move Austin closer to my home town so I could be closer to my parents. I have been driving that grueling 4 hour drive for 27 years. We are hopeful this will be the year they finally move to the Texas Hill Country!
LiveMom: What’s one piece of unsolicited advice you’d give to a new mom?
Kelli: I don’t think I would offer any unsolicited advice. Being a mom is the hardest job I have ever had. I never really appreciated it when people tried to give me advice. It always just made me feel overwhelmed. But if a new mom ever wants my advice, I will gladly hold her baby, buy her a glass of wine and open my heart and share anything she wants to know! Or better yet, I might just lend an ear and tell her I understand what she is going through!
LiveMom: What is the best thing one mom can do for another?
Kelli: Tell them they are doing a good job and mean it!
LiveMom: What kind of music do you like? Any local musicians? Kids musicians?
Kelli: I guess I have an old soul. I love Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. But lately my daughter has me listening to Panic! At The Disco. And of course being from Austin, I love The Mrs! Andra Liemandt is a personal friend, mentor and inspiration! Don’t tell on me because they might kick me out, but I don’t really care for loud music so the live music scene is really lost on me. But I love the beauty of the landscape of our city. A drive down 2222 or over the 360 bridge always brings a smile to my face despite the traffic.
LiveMom: What’s the best way to keep up with what you are up to next?
Kelli: Again, I am old school. I have an iPhone, but I can’t seem to use the online calendar. My hard cover At-A-Glance calendar looks like a crime scene most days, but it keeps my life and work organized like no app could ever do!
LiveMom: What might we be surprised to learn about you?
Kelli: I can’t spell! I was Who’s Who in English in high school, but I can’t spell worth a flip. I look everything up or will completely restructure a sentence in order to avoid a difficult word. To top it off, I have the worst handwriting on the planet. But I have been told I write the best thank you notes, so I guess the thought is what truly counts.
LiveMom: What is your job, what is your title, and what do you love about your job?
Kelli: I am the Founder and Executive Director of Hand to Hold, a national non-profit based in Austin that provides support to NICU and bereaved families. I love knowing that my hard work truly does make a difference in the lives of others. I worked in High Tech PR for years. No one remembers the amazing press releases I wrote or the events I planned for dot com companies that have long since gone under, but I receive e-mails, texts and phone calls from NICU families that have been touched by our mission. For that, I am truly blessed!
LiveMom: Do you have any charitable organizations you like to work with/ donate to/ volunteer for locally?
Kelli: Besides my own non-profit, Hand to Hold, my daughter and I are members of the North Austin chapter of the National Charity League so we have the opportunity to volunteer at amazing charities all over Austin. Our favorite is working in the kitchen at Caritas.
LiveMom: What is your secret talent?
Kelli: I so wish I had one! I really don’t. I am super uncoordinated. I can’t dance or sing a note. I have long since forgotten how to play the piano and twirl. But I recently started producing and hosting a Podcast for NICU families. I think I may have finally found my groove!
Any social media links or sites you want to promote?
Podcast: NICU Now
Thanks again to Howdy Honda, Austin’s top rated Honda store according to Yelp.com, for sponsoring this month’s Local Mama Feature. Stop by to speak with one of their trained Honda experts in sales and service to help answer your questions and make you feel at ease with your vehicle purchase experience. They have been our neighbor of over 30 years and sell new, used and certified pre-owned Hondas. Go see them!