Who We Are

“Kelly” Shines at Holy Family Institute, Thanks to Your Support

Her hand trembles as she picks up the telephone and presses the numbers no child should ever have to dial. “Hello? My name is Kelly*. I need help.”

For as long as she can remember, Kelly’s parents were not able to care for her, and she always knew something was wrong. When she was only 14 years old, she trudged through the snow in the middle of winter along a dangerous highway to buy food at Target to feed herself and her younger siblings, because there was no food in their home.

In August 2012, she bravely makes the call to Children, Youth and Family Services to report the abuse and neglect she had been experiencing for years. After being removed from her home, she lives with a family friend for a month before being placed at Holy Family Institute’s residential program.

She is terrified as she arrives at Holy Family, meeting unfamiliar staff members and learning her way around a new place. Kelly hesitantly asks Miss V., a residential supervisor, “May I please bring  my hamster with me?” Even though pets are usually not allowed, Miss V. sees how this one particular exception could make a huge difference to this scared young lady, and answers, “Of course you can.” This moment is when Kelly knows that everything is going to be okay.  Her fears gradually subside as she realizes that for once in her life, caring adults are in her corner.

Kelly is overjoyed to have a clean bedroom to call her own and a place to wash her laundry. For the first time in as long as she can remember, she doesn’t have to worry about everyone being fed. Perhaps equally as important, Kelly finally feels like people are proud of her. You see, Kelly is an incredibly bright, energetic and friendly teen whose academic and personal accomplishments went entirely unnoticed in her household.

“Silver Lining,” by student artist “Kelly,” aka Soft-Pink in the HFI Cathy Pelusi Art Studio
“Silver Lining,” by student artist “Kelly,” aka Soft-Pink in the HFI Cathy Pelusi Art Studio

She is a member of the National Honor Society, editor of her school’s Literary Fragments magazine, and active in student council, musicals, Latin Club, the art club, and Model UN. She loves reading, writing, and painting. She has worked since she was 11 years old, painting faces at a farm, cleaning houses and mowing lawns to earn money. When she turned 15, she began working at the Pittsburgh Zoo because of her love for animals and at a local ice cream shop. Kelly is grateful that she finally has role models in her life who applaud and encourage her many talents and aspirations, and support and love her the way every child deserves to be loved.

Kelly is now entering her senior year of high school, where her graduation project is to host the Model UN at her school as president of the organization. She aspires to attend Duquesne University where she anticipates a sizeable scholarship – the fruits of her many years of hard work and dedication. Kelly’s goal is to inspire others, sharing her story so that other youth will see her as a role model and say “because of you, I’m able to go on, because of what you did and what you have begun.”

It is truly through the gifts of our many friends and donors that programs like this can exist. Your gift helps young people like Kelly feel safe, loved, and supported. On behalf of Kelly and all the children and families served by our many programs and services, and from the bottom of our hearts, we thank you.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.