Over the last three years, I’ve featured nearly 50 individuals or couples in this column who’ve generously given their time and resources to support CAMP Rehoboth. During this time I’ve never repeated a recipient, until now.
As many of you know, the CAMP Rehoboth family recently lost one of its most dedicated and long-standing volunteers, Michael J. Kelly. Mike passed away on February 16, having left an impact on this organization that will be remembered for years to come.
As a small tribute to Mike, I’m including some of the highlights of his interview from 2010 that help to demonstrate his caring and giving nature. I’ve also added quotes from several of his extended CAMP Rehoboth family, each reflect something special about his many contributions here.
When/why did you start volunteering for CAMP?
Years ago, I started volunteering for CAMP with Sundance…filling goodie bags, selling tickets, and doing whatever was needed. Before retiring, I used to schedule the week before Sundance as a vacation week so that I could be available to help as much as possible.
What’s been your best memory volunteering here?
Without a doubt, it’s the great people you get to meet here. There’s really a sense of community in Rehoboth Beach and it becomes very clear each and every year at Sundance.
What does CAMP Rehoboth mean to you?
Showing the LGBT community at its best, particularly the work done that involves the non-LGBT community. We offer so much to whoever comes through the Community Center doors.
“Wouldn’t you like to be a CAMPer too?” How would you help encourage someone to get involved with us?
I’m forever talking up CAMP to my friends and encouraging them to get involved. I recently talked three friends into helping out with the Auction calls this year….Pat, Rich, and Tom—to each of you, I hope we’re still friends when this is done!
Please give us a little known fact about you…until now, that is…
The juicy stuff I will save for my autobiography. However, I have been fortunate to have lived in many places, such as New York; DC; Brussels, Belgium (did Graduate work at the University of Louvain, MA); Frankfurt, Germany; Honolulu (work and more Graduate work, MBA). All were great experiences, and I still remain friends with folks in all those places.
First thought that comes to mind when you hear the word “Rehoboth?”
Reflections of Mike
Offered by Kathy Weir, “When Mike started going to Rehab after he broke his hand last summer, they gave him a glove that he was supposed to wear all the time (to prevent swelling). Mike took the glove from the therapist and asked, with all seriousness, if the gloves were available in ‘opera length for evening wear.’ He was quick with the wit, our Mike.”
Offered by Charlie Lee, “As a long-time volunteer who sees people come and go, Mike was the exception. He kept coming back every spring and would do whatever we asked of him with great energy and endless bantering. Mike, Kathy (Weir) and I were an unbeatable team…unique characters who respect each other and we got the job done. Kathy and I are still in the disbelief stage, waiting for Mike to come bounding in with some anecdote or juicy piece of local gossip. He knew everyone. We miss you, Mike.”
Offered by Mickie McManamon, “A constant bundle of energy, Mike always came in and quickly found a pile of papers to go through, envelopes with incorrect addresses to fix, or any number of other tasks he created for himself, but always a great help for CAMP Rehoboth.”
Offered by Steve Hoult, “Mike was such a dedicated volunteer to CAMP Rehoboth! He worked very hard at the many things he did for us but his work will be noticeably missed at Sundance. He contributed many hours during August helping prepare for our biggest fundraiser of the year. At the Sundance Auction this year, I’ll be toasting Mike Kelly and thanking him for his many contributions to this wonderful community! I hope you’ll join me.”
Personally, one of my fondest memories of Mike was sadly, one of my last. Shortly after Mike broke his hand late last summer, he still showed up at 6 a.m. to volunteer for the Sundance 5K. Not expecting him because of the injury and the early morning hour, I said, “but Mike, you’re in a cast!” He replied with a chuckle, “So? I still have one good arm. There has to be something I can do!” That was classic Mike…always willing to lend a hand for whatever we needed, even when he really only had one to work with.
We offer our sincere condolences to Mike’s partner, Jim Spellman, and to his family and many friends. Thank you for sharing him with us.
As has been said, while Mike did many things for CAMP Rehoboth, he may be best known for his work with Sundance. There’s a unique sense of pride and camaraderie amongst those of us involved behind the scenes that’s difficult to describe but especially meaningful to each of us. When we gather this Labor Day weekend for Sundance, we’ll miss you with every auction item, zip tie, and piece of fabric we put in place, Mike. It won’t be the same without you.
For all you ever did for CAMP Rehoboth, we thank you, dear friend.
A Celebration of Mike’s Life will be held at 1 p.m on Saturday, March 16 at the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center.
Know someone whose efforts should be considered for the CAMP Rehoboth Volunteer Spotlight? Email your suggestion.