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The air in the Carroll Apartments was filled with the warmth of familiarity and the subtle hum of daily life. The view showcased the vibrant colors adorning the walls, reflecting the lively spirits within. Kelly DellaGioia, a radiant woman, sat comfortably as she reflected on her life experiences, surrounded by her family and friends.

Kelly’s apartment, which she shares with roommate Barbara, bears witness to her connection between the past and the present, with each photo telling a unique story. Kelly, with her expressive eyes and infectious smile, has an overwhelming positive perspective on life. 

 

Three people talking on a sofa

Reflecting on the Past 

Kelly has faced her share of challenges in life. Her brother-in-law, Dennis O'Connor, reflects on some of her earlier struggles: "In elementary school, she wasn’t allowed to sit in the cafeteria and have lunch with the other students. Instead, she had to sit in a locked room by herself. My mother-in-law would have none of that."

It was during that time that Kelly's mother reached out to Evelyn Kennedy, securing programs and support from The Kennedy Collective. This effort was aimed at providing Kelly with an inclusive and supportive environment where she could thrive.

 

Sharing Kelly’s Story 

From her cherished relationships to her involvement with The Kennedy Collective, Kelly's story is one of resilience, love, and the pursuit of joy. Dennis, who has been documenting family stories throughout the years, embarked on a journey to compile Kelly's story into a book. Kelly Full of Joy! A Love Syndrome was released in 2023 and features stories aiming to inspire and serve as a resource for future generations of partners.

Opening the book, you are greeted with stories frozen in time. You're transported to the high school dance where Kelly was crowned prom queen. Nostalgia fills the room as Kelly reminisces about the magical moment she was adorned with a crown and sash. Flipping through, you discover glimpses of Kelly's family – Joanne, MaryAnn, Michele, and her wonderful parents, Mary and Joe. The images paint a portrait of a close-knit family, bound by love and kindness.

As Dennis reflected on the narrative, he realized that each person with disabilities, much like Kelly, has a distinctive story to tell. These stories aren't mere anecdotes; they serve as pillars of inspiration, offering guidance, instilling hope, and reminding us that every individual exudes a profound sense of joy.

 

The “Special Ladies” of the Kennedy Collective    

Another significant chapter in Kelly's life found its place – her connection with The Kennedy Collective. The Kennedy Collective, like Kelly’s story, echoes a broader vision of inclusivity and support. It isn’t just an organization; it's a network that embraces individuals like Kelly, fostering a sense of belonging and shared purpose.

“Special Ladies” is how Kelly refers to her support staff at The Kennedy Collective. They are the individuals who transcend the role of mere caregivers to become cherished companions, infusing joy into the lives of Kelly and her housemates.

In June of 2023, The Kennedy Collective hosted a book signing and reception at the MDAC Gallery. The evening allowed Kelly to celebrate the book release with family, friends, and the many team members from The Kennedy Collective whose lives she has touched.

For Kelly, The Kennedy Collective represents a support system that ensures everyone can experience life to the fullest. It’s a beacon of inclusiveness, offering opportunities for individuals with disabilities to engage, interact, and live the life they choose.

 

Her Story Continues 

To Kelly, the present is a canvas painted with love, family, and community, while the future holds promises of continued joy. Her appreciation for the present moment, especially living in a supportive group home managed by her good friend Latoya, radiates through her words. It is evident that this collective spirit has become an essential part of her life.

Kelly's journey stands as a testament to the idea that in a world often marred by judgment, the power of love, acceptance, and unwavering support can truly change lives. 

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