Episode 75: Carla Tardif, Patrick Kelly III and Kari Kelly
(L-R) Carla Tardif, Patrick Kelly III and Kari Kelly, and the Kelly Family
The lives of Kari Kelly, her son Patrick, and family friend Carla Tardif are intertwined in a way that is both tragic and beautiful. Kari, Patrick and Carla lost a husband, father and friend to brain cancer. Pat Kelly, a Syracuse University football standout who later played for four years in the NFL, died at the age of 37 after a two-year battle with brain cancer. On Pat’s deathbed, he asked his college friend Carla to fulfill one wish: to find a way for families going through cancer to focus on their recovery instead of the financial burdens imposed by a cancer diagnosis. Today, Carla is the CEO of Family Reach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to removing the financial barriers standing between a cancer patient and their treatment. One of Carla’s initiatives through Family Reach is the launch of Pat’s legacy, The Pat Kelly Promise, which further provides hope to families burdened with the financial side effects of their diagnosis.
Kari and Patrick Kelly III Bio
Kari Kelly and Patrick Kelly III know first-hand the devastating effects of a cancer diagnosis. Kari’s husband and Pat’s father, Pat Kelly II, passed away from brain cancer in 2003. But before he passed, he wanted to make sure his family and friends knew what he was seeing at the hospital - how a cancer diagnosis was affecting families financially.
The former NFL player (who later had a career in the financial industry) witnessed families struggling to pay mortgages or even groceries, all the while dealing with the realities of a cancer journey.
Kari and Patrick Kelly III joined with Family Reach to increase the awareness of the financial realities of a cancer diagnosis and to ensure other families know there is help out there for them.
Patrick III was 3 years old when his father passed away from cancer in 2003. He has said he has some personal memories of his father, along with the numerous stories from his friends about his days at Syracuse and the NFL.
Kelly III lettered in both football and basketball in high school but his focused turned to basketball when he grew to 6’8, which led to recruitment at the Division 1 level.
After attending IMG Academy in Florida, Patrick III played 2 years for Penn State University and following in his fathers footsteps he has recently transferred to Fordham University in New York City where Pat Kelly II got his MBA.
Kari Kelly currently lives in Raleigh NC where she raised Patrick III. She has been involved in raising money for Brain Cancer and other cancer related foundations. She is looking forward to spending time in New York City with her son and sharing the many memories that she and Pat experienced while dating and married.
Carla Tardif Bio
Athlete, patient advocate, and CEO of Family Reach, Carla Tardif is a spirited leader who isn’t afraid to go the distance. She’s been leading the charge to remove financial barriers that stand between a cancer patient and their treatment for over 10 years, making tangible impacts for cancer patients and their families through innovative solutions and collaboration.
Tardif led Family Reach from a family-founded organization to a national nonprofit with the vision that no family should have to choose between their health and their home. Her knowledge about this overlooked, yet vast, reality of cancer has made her a sought-after speaker across the U.S. Under her leadership, Family Reach increased its hospital network from 5 east coast sites to more than 500 top-tier hospitals and cancer centers nationwide, expanding from $200,000 annually to over 10 million dollars annually. Such tremendous growth means Family Reach can impact more than 40,000 people affected by cancer each year. And if you ask her, she’ll tell you she’s only just begun...
Expanding her reach throughout the cancer space and beyond, Tardif is also a member of various boards:
- SHEPHERD Foundation, a nonprofit focused on transforming healthcare policy and funding treatment for rare cancers
- Syracuse University Boston Regional Council
- Pfizer Advocacy Council
Karen Ortman 00:36
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter!, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I'm your host Karen Orman Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Kari Kelly, her son Patrick and family friend, Carla Tardif, whose lives are intertwined in a way that is both tragic and beautiful. Kari, Patrick and Carla lost a husband, father and friend to brain cancer. Pat Kelly, a Syracuse University football standout, who later played for four years in the NFL, died at the age of 37, after a two year battle with brain cancer. On Pat's deathbed, he asked his college friend Carla to fulfill one wish to find a way for families going through cancer to focus on their recovery instead of the financial burdens imposed by a cancer diagnosis. Today, Carla is the CEO of family reach, a nonprofit organization dedicated to removing the financial barriers standing between a cancer patient and their treatment. One of Carla's initiatives through family reach is the launch of Pat's legacy, the Pat Kelly promise, which further provides hope to families burdened with the financial side effects of their diagnosis. Kari, Patrick and Carla, welcome to You Matter. Thank you, parents. Thank you for having us. My pleasure. So Kari, I'm gonna start with you. Tell me about when you met your husband, Pat.
I met Pat at a Jets Dallas game on December 18, 1992. Very cold day, and I had gotten tickets through my company that I was working for and actually got to sit and he was in the process of retiring. And finishing up a master's program.
Karen Ortman 02:41
retired from where?
The NFL sorry, yeah.
Karen Ortman 02:45
So he was so how long had he been playing with the NFL and for what team?
He played for the Broncos for two years. And the Jets actually, for three part of that three years was he was injured. But when I met him, he was in the process of retiring and going into the business world and trading world.
Karen Ortman 03:07
Ah, okay. So you began dating after that first meeting?
Immediately, Yes. It was kind of a love it. First thing. He told his friends that night that he met Mrs. Kelly and I told all my friends at a business meeting or business dinner afterwards, that I think I met the one. It was pretty obvious right up front.
Karen Ortman 03:29
Oh, that's so special. So how long after you began dating, did you get married?
It was a little under three years that we got married. I was traveling a lot for my job. He was established in the trading world. And it went very fast those three years.
Karen Ortman 03:50
So you get married. And you have a beautiful little boy, who's now a grown man sitting right next to you.
Yes. We left with that. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 04:03
And how long after you were married? Did Patrick come along?
Three years, three years.
Karen Ortman 04:09
At some point. During your marriage after Patrick was born, Pat, your husband became ill. So tell me about that.
So interesting. He started getting some symptoms. When Patrick was probably about nine or 10 months old. We thought it was the stress of Wall Street. I really wasn't sure what was going on. But he was super healthy and still worked out as if he was an athlete. And I just we just kind of said maybe we should go see a doctor. And it did take the doctors a few months to figure out exactly what it was because his cancer never presented itself like a typical brain tumor. So
Karen Ortman 04:57
what sort of symptoms was he experiencing?
It started with a little numbness in the corner of his mouth. He felt that he almost like he had been to the dentist. There were no headaches was just what I kind of thought would happen. After the soon after the numbness, he started getting a feeling like he couldn't articulate the words fast enough thinking, And he was a very, very quick witted man. So it was hard for him for what he explained it as things that went in his mind couldn't get to his mouth the right way.
Karen Ortman 05:35
Wow. Was it obvious to you listening to him speak that there was a problem?
Not initially, no, I honestly didn't see anything, any kind of problems with him until he told me once we started doing some investigating with the doctors, it was pretty fast that we started seeing some severe symptoms.
Karen Ortman 05:58
So it progressed quickly.
Very quickly. Yes, the type of cancer that he we finally were able to diagnose and with is extremely aggressive. It's it's a level 4 glioblastoma, brain cancer. And it's, I think one of I remember at one of the fastest growing cancers.
Karen Ortman 06:21
So tell me about when you discovered, and he discovered that that was his diagnosis.
So we, it took, like I said, took a little time to really actually get the diagnosis. It took getting to a neurologist that would do a biopsy. And he was having seizures and things were progressing very quickly. When he was out of his, when he was in his surgery, because he was coming out of the original surgery with the biopsy, the doctor pulled me in and told me that he had a malignant brain tumor and that he was going to have a tough fight. Once we met with the oncologist, she told me privately that Pat had three to six months, even with treatment. So I really dug deep and decided that maybe he didn't need that information. Right away. Like I he knew, I mean, he knew I mean, you have level four malignant brain tumor, he knows what that means. And I just didn't feel like if I gave him numbers of three to six months, then he would, I wanted him to fight because he'd been in the top 1% everything you'd ever done in his life. So there was only a 2% chance of living past six months, I knew he would do that. So and he did he lived two and a half years.
Karen Ortman 07:45
So So what was life like after that diagnosis? And, and now you knowing that the outcome is not going to mean your husband's going to be with you 20 years down the road? Like, how how did you cope with that?
Well, I had a toddler ... at times, um, you know, it's funny, I for some reason, I found my ways of getting my emotions out in the shower, like I wouldn't hide that would be me, I. But I was really stubborn about being, I'm going to raise this child and take care of him. He has second surgery, which was to remove as much of the tumor as possible was very successful, but it left him partially paralyzed and going from a professional athlete, to someone who was having trouble dressing himself was very difficult for him. But I came, he fought and I could see that fight and him the same fight that got him to play at Syracuse and the NFL and to go to Wall Street and do all the things that he's succeeded at. So I just, we just kept that fire going inside just fight fight fight, but, and watching his beautiful child, you know, he was wide open toddler and he and Pat just loved that he loved it and kept him going. But it was there were times it was tough on me. I'm not I would be lying if I said it differently. I felt like I missed out a lot on both of their needs. Because I was only one person.
Karen Ortman 09:22
how challenging was his treatment.
It It was pretty tough, that the radiation was very difficult. And we did that every single day for seven weeks. And taking Patrick to Sloan Kettering for treatments because I he was on my hip. So running around was actually tend to be comic relief to some of the patients. Pat also like to do is treatment on the pediatric wing. So that was also extremely challenging for me, especially having a child But it was, it provided so much strength for us. And he felt that it would be the opposite if I, if I'm the strong guy in front of the kids, that they'll feel better, but actually it was the kids that made him feel better
Karen Ortman 10:14
How painful was it to watch him go through treatment?
It was very, it was painful. There was so many different things like I don't think he was in a ton of pain. He his mind was working fine, but his body wasn't. And that was very, very difficult to watch. For him the frustration he had it, but he, he never complained. He never complained. He did 10 months of chemo, which was every three weeks. For 10. Yeah, for 10 months. Which there was some question marks of whether or not that would be effective, but he did actually go into remission after the chemo for a little while. And we feel that was such a gift.
Karen Ortman 11:02
Patrick, how old were you? When your dad passed away?
I was three and a half.
Karen Ortman 11:11
And I know that's that's very young. But do you have any memory of him? in life?
I actually do. Um, you know, it was a very hard time for everybody. So I think my brain allowed me to have a lot of good memories. You know, my mom was amazing in the way that if something bad happened around when I was around, she made sure I left the room, or I wasn't able to see what was going on. So honestly, I've got about eight memories of them set, which is crazy, because I was very young. But I have eight memories, and they're all good ones. So I'm blessed that my mom.
Karen Ortman 11:48
Yeah, so you have eight distinct memories. Yes, ma'am. What are they?
Uh, well, there's a lot of they're all like silly ones. You know, it might be something small, like us doing a photo shoot and like the sand and seeing him talk to a guy that was like the camera guy, rock. But the one that sticks out the most to me, that I honestly think about a lot is towards the end of his days, he was in the hospital. And he had a lot of family coming to town. And it wasn't a goodbye, necessarily, but it was like, I want to see him because we know this is towards the end. It was connected to a bunch of wires he he didn't look super healthy. But one thing he made sure is when he did when I did see him, he would take all the wires out all the IVs and look like he was super healthy. And I have a very distinct memory of my mom carry me into the room. I could tell you the flags that were on the walls, but ticks bonus was bed as very, very vivid for me still. And my mom carried me in bed, she like put me on his chest. And I couldn't remember I can still remember to this day, the way like the warmth of his skin and like his hand on my back. And the feeling of comfort and happiness. That's special. That memory alone kind of gets me through some of the hard times. You know, I'm a very, very spiritual person as well as he was. So it's me comfort that he's with me spiritually. So
Karen Ortman 13:18
Wow. And you feel you feel him today?
For sure. Absolutely.
Karen Ortman 13:24
That's very, very cool. How hard was it for you to grow up without your dad, I know your mom is an amazing, amazing person. But I'm sure you felt some you know, a loss, you know, not having your dad around.
For sure. You know, and you beat me to it. My mom is an amazing mother. You know, she, she filled the role as a mother and a father. A lot of times she had to ask the hard questions about male stuff, you know, and I feel bad for it to this day.
Karen Ortman 13:59
You are special Kari.
But, you know, it's definitely challenging. You know, there's things a mom can't do. Like, there's times where especially as an athlete, you know, I have had, I've been in situations that I didn't know, I'd have the wisdom to answer or to act on, you know, and there's what I wish I had the guidance in some areas like that there was some of the questions that I wanted to ask my dad that I didn't really want to ask my mom. Yeah, there's small stuff like that. But I think just, I think having a male role model around was something I probably missed the most, you know, my mom has always taught me to respect women, and she's taught and I feel like she's just she did an amazing job raising me. So I feel like I have a good head on my shoulders at times. But there's definitely times where I wish I could have that male figure to say like, hey, like this is how you should treat a woman or this is how you should handle your relationship or however it may be, you know, so I kind of missed that and I do have memories of him. But I think a lot of like the holes in my heart more of just the eye. Give him because I didn't really get to know him as a person, you know, they get to know him as, you know, a grown man with his responsibilities is more just like, when I was younger, he was just my dad, you know, and it's just the secure, like a security and like a safe place to be around. So now, it's hard for sure, you know, but I still feel his presence. Like I said,
Karen Ortman 15:18
That's wonderful. And it's interesting, because you know, your dad, obviously, he's a was a very successful athlete, you're an athlete. I'm sure there are times during your own athletic career that you wanted to run certain situations by him. Maybe you had conflicts? I don't know. So in those instances, were you able to rely on somebody else who could give you sort of comparable? Not not your father, but somebody close that you could talk to about those sorts of situations?
For sure. You know, I'm on my mom and dad's side, there's a lot of good men, you know, they're not my dad, then they know that. But I think they're, they're an all star in their role when it comes to being an uncle, cousin. So they're in my life. And it's been hard as I've moved around a lot. So my communication, then they suffer a little bit. I go to Arizona and or New York, or Virginia and I'm in Arizona, or if they're in Arizona, I go back to Virginia. Yeah. So it's hard to be in somebody's life when you. Yeah, but they have made an effort, and they've done the best of their abilities. You know, I don't, my dad was the only NFL player in the family. So some of the questions they answer are more about how I should be about a man or how I handle situations, family or friends. And I feel like I have had good guidance from my family
Karen Ortman 16:42
and close friends to say you said you moved around a lot. Why?
Um, a lot of basketball situations. You know, my mom's been amazing in the way that she's traveled with me and supported me through this process. I have gone to Florida for a post grad program, you know, I did move to Arizona, to be around my role models, you know, my mom, I always say I was raised by a pack of women, you know, my mom and her girlfriends and whoever it may be. So I can sometimes think like a woman and a man, but there's a lot of good men out there. So that allowed me to see like, like, how to take care of the things that you're responsible for. And the nice to see from a man's perspective. And it was it was definitely a blessing.
Karen Ortman 17:27
So tell me about your decision to play basketball instead of play football, like your dad.
So growing up, I I honestly, like football more than basketball is my because my dad, you know, he was my hero, you know, and I always played both sports, but I always was leaning towards more football. I actually had a pretty bad injury. When I was 12. I had a concussion, I went unconscious, and it kind of scared me so that you know, I'm gonna focus on basketball for a little bit to fall in love with the game, you know? Luckily, I've had God given gifts, some six, nine. So I think basketball kind of fell with me a little too at times. But six foot nine. Yes, man.
Karen Ortman 18:09
How tall was your father?
He was six, eight. So I think I think I have him beat by a little bit. Probably but
Karen Ortman 18:19
so basketball is your sport of choice. Did you ever consider going to Syracuse?
you know, in the recruiting process. It's it's challenging. You know, I love Syracuse. And I actually had, I was honored to meet Jim Boeheim. He's a great coast guy. But I admitted to Penn State. And now I'm going to Fordham, but it's just it was the best opportunity for me, my mom, friends, my family and just like my future in general. You know, I love Syracuse. It's a great school, but I thought other universities may be a better opportunity. Yeah. So
Karen Ortman 18:53
I know that your dad would be very proud of you. is very proud of you. You're an outstanding young man. Carla. So let's talk How did you meet Pat, how did you meet this beautiful family?
You know, I'm sitting I know them so well. And I'm still sitting here in total awe, listening to them. I met petted Syracuse. So I did go to Syracuse. And I think everyone that went to Syracuse knew Pat i that's a weird answer. That man was a force
Karen Ortman 19:27
He was six foot eight.
personality and kind and funny and charismatic and played football in was in a fraternity like he just broke all the rules in the best possible way. So yeah, he was he was a light that we were all drawn to.
Karen Ortman 19:44
Yeah. So you went to Syracuse with him. So tell me about life at Syracuse being friends with Pat Kelly.
It was it got me in trouble. Ah, yeah, but it was it was a lot of fun and clearly big Pat Kelly dictated the trajectory of my life and I know we're going to go into this but our what I thought was just a great friend and a great human being who I saw I do so much for others constantly. He just was there for, for his friends. For for strangers. Yeah, he was just the he was, he was the guy that showed up to help. So at Syracuse, we just had a lot of fun. No idea that it was going to be so much more than that.
Karen Ortman 20:38
So you graduate, Syracuse, at some point, I think when you and I had spoken in the past, you may have lost touch a little bit.
We did we lost touch. He was a big shot. He went off to play in the NFL, and then he went to Wall Street. So we sort of an I took this road to philanthropy. I went to work for Jerry Lewis. You know what, went out to LA and started getting into fundraising and social impact and giving back so I was on a different path. We lost touch.
Karen Ortman 21:07
Yeah. So that's where you started with your philanthropy work. Hey, Jerry, Jerry celadon, the telephone. Yes, you lost touch with Pat, at what point? Did you get reconnected.
So one day I showed up at my at this point, I was in LA with Jerry Lewis. And then I moved to San Francisco. They moved us around. It's a national organization and they ended up bringing me back to Boston which was home. I on my desk one day, when I came into work, there was a pink notepad saying Carla, Pat Kelly called his friend from college, Paul phrase had a son with muscular dystrophy, and he needs help. He did not know where this message was gonna land. He did not know I was working for muscular dystrophy. It just so happened that that message reconnected us.
Karen Ortman 22:00
Nice. So how long after you graduated? Syracuse. Did you get that message?
Karen Ortman 22:07
I called him and said, Pat, it's Carla. Like it was just this reckoning? Wow. Where we were reunited with Paul, who was his best friend. Was he the best man in your wedding Kari?
No, but because we got married during the season, actually. But Pat was best man in Paul's
hat was okay. So best of friends Alfredo. And we were very good friends in college. So we just instantly were united the three of us and
Karen Ortman 22:41
united force. Yeah, the stars were aligned. That's amazing. I didn't know that. So you're reconnected 10 years later? At this point, Pat and Kari are married. Yes. Is Patrick a baby at this?
No, Kari and I were pregnant at the same time. Actually, we bonded in the beginning over just wanting to have babies. We were doing these big NFL events to raise money for Paul's son. So we were you know, we were just living the dream and off in the corner saying I really just want to have a baby. recently married and we wanted to start families. And so we're at that same juncture in life. And we got pregnant around the same time. My daughter was also born in 99.
Karen Ortman 23:30
And I have a son born in 99. So so I'm sure you're reconnected. You, I guess. reestablish your friendship. Do you start seeing each other more often?
Instantly. I mean, instantly. So Pat was in Boston at that time, when I called and said, it's Carla, and I'm in Boston. I think that afternoon we met at a pub to sit down and just catch up, reconnect and brainstorm how we were going to help Paul phrase so that literally, we went from zero to 60, which is what Pat does, yeah. Instantly pulled in the NFL pulled in current players, past players, raised hundreds of 1000s of dollars put together research, a team of researchers for Muscular Dystrophy really just went went above and beyond for Paul. And we did that for four years. So we stayed together and kept our efforts going for Paul phrases son, Joshua.
Karen Ortman 24:33
So when did you learn about Pat being ill?
This was after our third event. So it was between events. So we were sort of in an offseason. And news travels pretty fast. So I got a call and someone just said, sit down.
Karen Ortman 24:54
And what what was told to you at that time,
that just Pat had brain cancer and If I wasn't in the cancer world, then I didn't know what it meant, but I knew it wasn't.
Karen Ortman 25:07
I knew it wasn't good. Yeah. Had you and Kari spoken about it. After you learned the diagnosis,
I think Kari was in survival mode at that time, we were rallying around to see how we can support but carry. I mean, we did we had another event. So we saw you at the event. Yeah, but we didn't really talk about it.
Karen Ortman 25:32
Yeah. So during the time of Pat's illness, you probably didn't see him all that much.
It didn't see him that much. I saw him at the event in Boston. He really, I know, he relied on carry a lot and put on a brave face for all of us. Yeah. But he kept a low profile now.
Karen Ortman 25:53
What at some point? While he was very, very ill, you had the opportunity to see him. So tell me about that.
So Daryl Johnston, who also played at Syracuse, and still has a great career in the NFL, he called me and said, it's time for us to go Say goodbye to pat.
Karen Ortman 26:17
Had you known that it got to that point, when you got that call?
No, that had gotten to that point. And it was a bunch of NFL It was a bunch of the guys. I think there was like eight, eight or nine of the guys and I said, Look, you guys go this is a guy thing. You know, I just, I think honestly, part of me was just afraid. Afraid. See, Pat Kelly, like that afraid? Yeah, just afraid to see it. I too, had a toddler. And a newborn at that point, my second. So it was easier for me not to and I am so grateful to Darryl Johnson that said if you do not join us here, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Wow. So I got on a plane and I went enjoying them at Pat's bedside.
Karen Ortman 27:05
And tell me about that visit.
So you know, you walked in, and Pat was on recognizable. six foot, six foot seven, six foot eight, very gauntt bald, I mean, literally wanted to turn around and walk out thinking we had the wrong room. But we went in, he could only whisper he was very weak. But he still held court, he still was in charge. There were a lot of hand gestures. We knew what he meant. In him laugh it was it was priceless. And I am so glad that I was there. And just got the opportunity to laugh, to laugh, to laugh with him and to remember and to tell stories. And we sort of took turns sitting next to pat because he could only whisper. So to talk to him, you had to be close. So when it was my turn, I sat next to pat. And he reached out and grabbed my hand and said, look at me. So I looked at him and that look in his eye I will never forget. And he said Promise me, you are going to fix this. And I knew what he was talking about. Because throughout his journey, as Carrie said he was he would often go to the pediatric floors at Memorial Sloan Kettering pretreatment. And he would reach out to a handful of us and he would just say, these families are not talking about cancer, the parents are not talking about cancer. There's this whole other financial crisis going on because of cancer. And that is what they're worried about. That is what they're talking about. Not that they weren't worried about cancer, but there were people there to care for the cancer. There were doctors, there was an incredible facility that was being handled. But the reality is that they when a child is is sick, one parent stops working. And if it's a single parent, their income is is cut, gone. And then dual incomes, if one stops, you know, their income is cut in half. So this the sort of formula of lost work, lost income, out of pocket expenses, trying to get to the hospital parking at the hospital meals outside the home, Insurance Co pays deductibles and cost of care. It's understandable now that I now that I am where I am, but he just kept saying they're not talking about cancer. They're talking about the financial crisis. And so when when I sat down and he said, promise me you're going to fix this. I knew what he was talking about. I just didn't know anything about it. But I I said I will I'll fix it. I promise you I will fix it.
Karen Ortman 29:54
And did you have any idea at that moment? How you were going to address this Problem.
They didn't know what the problem was, you know, I can honestly confess, if I had known the problem, I probably wouldn't have found it. Ignorance was bliss. At that moment I did not know. And it took me a couple of years to figure it out, that promise that look in his eye. Those stories that he kept telling us, they haunted, they haunted me. And so one day, again, a toddler and a newborn. I just quit my job and sought out to figure out how to solve this problem. And I found a nonprofit called family reach that was family founded a volunteer organization to families in New Jersey that started at both had lost their children to cancer. One was treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering saw the exact same thing that pat saw. And when she passed away, she said the same thing to her family, make my legacy helping these families with the financial side of cancer. So I found family reach. And I told them Pat story, and I said, Can I please? Can I try to do something with this? Because I realized that they had figured out how to reach families. And I couldn't figure out how to do that. Yeah, so they partnered with the two hospitals where their children were in treatment. And they went back to the social workers in the hospital that helped them when they were in it. And they do the social workers. These are funds that are not for the hospital, they are for the families, pay their parking, pay their mortgage, buy them food, this is this is for their everyday expenses, so that their care is not interrupted because of finances now. And when I heard that, I thought this I can scale this I can grow. This is the answer. It seems to me that family reach found you.
Karen Ortman 32:04
And you are exactly the person that pat should have looked in the eye and and asked to take this on, because we're going to talk about everything that family reach is doing for those who have been diagnosed with cancer and the value of this organization, which I had no idea existed until very recently. But I am grateful to know about it. So I think you're doing God's work. I think I think all of you are doing its work. I'm so so family reach. You are now the CEO of Family Reach. Yes. And in the time that you looked Pat in the eye, and said you would take care of this problem, too. Now. How has your promise been impactful to those who suffer from cancer? I everybody needs to hear this.
When I first found Family Reach, they were in two hospitals, New York Presbyterian and Memorial Sloan Kettering, and they were helping about 150 families a year. And they had done that for 12 years. Again, it was a labor of love volunteers by two families. So fast forward from that day till now. We've helped 209,000 over 209,000 families, we are partnered with over 500 hospitals across the country. And we now offer financial wraparound services. So it's not just grant it's full, a full financial team. So when you're diagnosed, you get your medical care team. And now with family reach, you get a full financial care team to make sure that your care is not interrupted. And you can adhere to treatment.
Karen Ortman 34:11
That's amazing. If any listener is interested in learning about family reach, there's there's a website, family reach.org that spells out pretty explicitly what services you offer. But can you tell us tell the listeners what criteria is necessary to qualify for the services offered by family reach?
cancer diagnosis is a requirement and we are family reach so we ask that it's it the cancer is affecting the whole family so we'd like when there is children or young adults in the household but it's it's any type of cancer Answer and it is for pediatrics young adults or adults. Again, just to ask that a family be affected,
Karen Ortman 35:10
okay, does seriousness of diagnosis and there's probably a much more intelligent way to say this. But does that matter?
It does not matter because either way, I'm a breast cancer. I'm a two time breast cancer survivor. It was I was caught early. My diagnosis was caught early. But I still missed missed work. I still had to do surgeries, I still had to have radiation I still work was interrupted. So we understand that cancer disrupts your life. Yeah. And like you said, it's it is scary. So it doesn't matter what stage or what? Yeah, what stage your cancer is. And we see you.
Karen Ortman 35:53
Okay, Let's talk about the Pat Kelly promise.
So in true Pat Kelly form, I think you've said this a few times during this podcast. Pat Kelly is still he's still here. He is still in charge. Yeah. He's what I tell people all the time. He's still in jail. And I'm grateful for it now, because this guy knows what he's doing. And he's got a good heart. So he's driving the way. So one day I connected with the auctioneer that used to run the events that pat and I did for Paul phrase, his name is john terrio. And I reconnected with john terrio. Because of COVID. I hadn't seen john terrio in decades. And he said to me, hey, it's been a what, whatever happened to Pat Kelly, whatever happened to Paul phrase, so I brought him up to speed. And I told him about what I had made me promise. And I told him about what I've done. And he said, girl, why aren't you going back? And bringing all the guys back? Where's his wife? Where's his son now? And I said, I've lost touch with all of them. It's been 13 years. And he's like, it's a mistake. You need to get the band back together. So one Sunday, I'm sitting at my desk thinking, How do I Where do I even start? How do I find these guys? What do I say? I've been head down in this for so long now. And I'm sitting there again, a Sunday afternoon with my laptop open, and I get a little message on LinkedIn. And it's Paul phrase. And he said, Hey, girl, what's up? That's it. That's it. I said, Well, what's up is I'm trying to figure out how to reconnect with you. That's what's up. And I want to know, where carriers and want to know Patrick's don't like I need. I want to tell everybody about the promise. They knew what Pat had seen. And I want to tell them what I've been able to do. And I want to invite anybody that wants to get involved, to get involved. And Pat called Carrie, who instantly brought in Patrick, and they were all instantly in. And that's when we said let's call this the promise. And let's see what we can do together.
Karen Ortman 38:09
So I understand there's the promise to Pat Kelly as he lay on his dying bed. And I understand what family reach does. What is the difference between the two?
If you think of it as family reach is sort of the engine driving the package. A promise is a platform, it's a stage that has been set. For anybody that hurt pet tell those stories. For anybody that knew Pat loved Pat wants to honor Pat, any anybody that is hearing this and is motivated and moved by Kerry stories by Patrick story, know somebody with cancer wants to make a difference. We're building Pat's legacy here. He had the courage to see this problem. He had the heart to not be able to let it go. I want to use his voice to get that word out. And then it's family reach and my team of 40 people on the back end that are going to be administering those funds reaching out to families offering those services. Connecting the Dots for all that we generate, through this campaign called the Pat Kelly promise,
Karen Ortman 39:29
is the primary focus to raise money for families affected by cancer. That's a great question. I'm going to tell I'm going to say the primary goal is to raise awareness. The primary goal is to tell all of those people that pat saw or heard in the hallway or witnessed himself. To tell them there's nothing they did wrong. Cancer does this, to tell them that they're not alone, to tell them that there is help. Don't Don't be ashamed. system is broken. Now we have so many parents that come to us to say I failed my family, you did not fail your family, the system failed you. So we would need to wipe out the shame. Let them know that there are resources available. This is nothing they did wrong. And we want to help them to make sure they can access care and adhere to treatment. But so the number one goal is to get out there what Pat couldn't unseat Yeah. And in the same breath, we need to raise money so that we can in fact, address those needs. The goal is to catch them early. So financial education, financial planning, credit and debt consolidation, resource navigation, those resources are plentiful. If you need financial grants. Clearly that requires resources. Yeah. It's interesting to me. I've met countless people who have been diagnosed with cancer. And there's a shame associated with that diagnosis. Why do people carry shame? regarding a diagnosis like cancer?
There's 17 million people living in the United States with cancer. Yeah, there's 7 million new diagnoses each year. When you're diagnosed with cancer, you feel vulnerable. Like we all have to put on this, this facade that we've got it figured out or that we are living our best lives. You have cancer, you're scared. You need help. You're you feel vulnerable. And so the instincts are to just sort of retract. Yeah. And we talk about the courage cancer families have and I can talk about the courage it took me to battle cancer. But I also say, I didn't talk about it. I do this work. I had cancer in this job. And I didn't talk about it. Why not? I didn't want it. I didn't want I didn't want it to be about me. I got this. I got you. I got it. We're doing this. And if I showed my vulnerability or my weakness, would they think Oh, she doesn't Got it?
Karen Ortman 42:19
She's not a leader. It I don't know. She needs to heal. She's sick. Yeah. Yeah,
I don't know. And so I think we all put a brave face forward always in cancer robs you of that. Yeah.
I agree with Carla. Just, you know, I I've never had to personally go through what she went through. But getting a diagnosis like that, but I I watched my husband not go out as much. And he was the life of the party everywhere he went. He didn't like the fact that his hair fell out. He didn't like that he didn't feel good. He did he, he was afraid to go to dinner, because he was afraid that halfway through dinner, he would disappoint everyone at the table if he had to leave, because he didn't been treatment. But that was very difficult for him to watch other families arguing over. What are we going to do tonight, we have nowhere to park our car. You know, we don't have any way to feed our children. And he really wanted to many times just go hand a 20 to someone. And I'm like, I was at fault. I said you can't do that in front of his family. Like do this aside when he goes to the bathroom. I just didn't want there anybody to be embarrassed. I him going over. So he found his ways with whether it was going to buy lunch outside and just setting it next to their table and what or what to do. He wanted to do to be helpful, but I don't know why there is that feeling. I wish I knew because I don't think I was ever more proud of him. And all the things he accomplished than living two and a half years when he wasn't supposed to. Thought he you know, I was so proud of him and and what he really suffered so we he could be in our lives longer.
And during his whole battle, he still saw other people and was tuned into their spring and was calling us to say do something these people are suffering. This is not okay. Yeah. So most people are thinking about their own fortune. Not path. He was still worried about other people. Yeah.
Karen Ortman 44:28
Patrick, how do you feel when you hear about somebody who's been diagnosed with cancer? does it bring it all back with your dad? Do you have a level of sort of empathy that other people might not have?
Um, that's a great question. You know, when I hear about somebody who has cancer, you know, I pray and I pray for them and their family and I feel like I'll know how to talk to them. So I feel like I can be a support system. You know, A lot of times people don't know how to talk to you, when you if you had cancer Your father has passed away from cancer, you know, it's, it's awkward for a lot of people because people handle grief differently. And, and this unfortunate disease. So I feel like I just know how to talk to people and they do you know, I have friends that have had parents, siblings, cousins have cancer. And I, I just know where I will step in the line over the line if I like say certain things, or I can hold back and just say like, hey, like, I'm here for you. thing, like, just let me know, one call away. And the ringer is on, you know, I feel like it's I've never, I didn't go through that journey really, with my mom and Carla with my dad, you know, I mean, I was there, but I wasn't I was a kid. So I, there's things that they're going to be way more knowledgeable about than I am. But one thing I do know is that I, I'll be able to talk to you and make you feel comfortable and try to find the positives and the negatives and worsen the situation.
And I might interject to that. At Penn State, he had two other teammates fathers passed away from cancer. So the three kids on a roster of 15 that lost their fathers to cancer, which is rare and but I think that they very I don't want to speak for you. But I feel like you guys bonded over that unfortunate February.
Karen Ortman 46:27
Patrick, where do you see the Pat Kelly promise fitting into your life as an adult?
As an adult, I want to I want to continue the to spread awareness for the fact that we promise, you know, I think this is amazing what we're doing and Carl's doing really. And I just want to continue to spread awareness, I want my kids to be involved with this, you know, I want to I want this to become so big, where my kids are both and maybe my grandkids, you know, and that's me. But another part of me, to be honest with you is like Carla, mom mentioned early retirement, my dad alive in a sense, you know, we like to continue with legacy. And he robbed of a very long, healthy life. Yeah. A lot of this is to continue to do a lot of great things in his name. And it's nice for myself, and my mom and Carla and the people that loved him, and he loved to be able to, I guess, share his path and share his journey and talk about him. And it's refreshing for all of us to you know, so a little bit of me is like, this is great for my dad, you know, he was like, another big part of me is spread awareness and help other families too. So I feel like my adult adulthood doing this,
Karen Ortman 47:43
if you could talk to your dad about anything, right now, what would it be?
Um, that's an insane question. You know, there's a lot of things I could ask a million questions, but I think it's out the most is, am I doing a good job? You know, he, she's always been, he's been like an instruction guide for me, because we've had a very similar path, you know, just in terms of athletics, in terms of his family priorities in life, his morals. So I think I just want to know, like, Am I on the path to success and I'm not talking about financial, we're talking more tips, and to be the best man I can be, you know, because I really look up to him. So I think it just be nice to hear him his side of things and the way he views me, I guess, because I've always kind of not I don't wanna say seek His approval. But I've always cared about what he would think and what he would want me to do to
Karen Ortman 48:38
Kari, when you think about your life with Pat. What do you miss the most?
I I missed the laughter I I do will say though, the Apple did not fall far from the tree with my son. So there's still a lot of laughter in our household. But I missed my best friend. I miss. He was so so good guidance. He was so good at calming me down. When I was snapping. I know Carla had those moments with him too. There's things where I wanted to say to him, where was that place? We went in that restaurant or what did you know I there's still going on. 18 years later, I hear a song and i i still cry 18 years later that I missed him so much. It's really mostly I think, you know, just my best friend I I just I I was I still am very much in love with him. And he was such a wonderful man. And I'm so grateful to have a piece of him every day, sitting next to me, but I miss that I don't get to grow old with him now.
Karen Ortman 49:58
Did you have a really fun wedding? Yes. What was your wedding song? What did you dance to?
True companion by Marc Cohn. It's a great song and he picked it. But yes, we got married in Virginia. And that's where I'm from. And, and it was very funny to when I was getting ready and about to walk out, I looked out. And the Virginia side of the wedding was all in hats and colorful dresses, and the New York side was all in black. It was very clear who was who. But we really we, it was a wonderful wedding. And we had a really good time was wonderful. Sounds wonderful.
Karen Ortman 50:45
Yeah. So Carla, what do you think? Pat would say about your efforts, not only in your career with family reach, but with the Pat Kelly promise? Do you think he'd be proud of you?
Yeah, we've joked about this. I think it's a what the hell took you so long? wink, you know, and then he'd be like, Really? That's it like, there's more work to do. So he, he would hit tell me to keep going. He would be extremely proud. We are changing the face of cancer. Because of Pat, people do not talk about the financial crisis of cancer. Pat's been talking about it for 20 years. It's now with COVID in this sort of health crisis, followed by a financial crisis that people just got a little taste of, this is what Pat was talking about two decades ago. So I think the world is starting to wake up to this reality. And I think we have an incredible opportunity now that COVID has exposed all sorts of health inequities. Yeah. And financial crisis because of health. So now is our time. And I think he waited for this time to get us all together. Because this is when this is when we need to show up for cancer patients more than we ever, ever before him.
Karen Ortman 52:17
Tell me a funny memory of your friendship with Pat. Probably hard to just say one
So we did these big events together. We had big celebrities. And you know, we it was it was a big deal. We raised a lot of money. If I got and I was at home with a with a with a baby doing this. So I would call him in a panic because of something. And you know, he's a busy guy working the desk at at Bear Stearns. And I would be like, Pat, and he would just say, What are you effin three? It's like, Oh, my God, I should know. And then I realized, and
Karen Ortman 53:05
you're like, No, I'm not three.
Know what you don't know, either. And that's why you're three. So it took me a couple years to catch on to that. But I still will ask myself some time. What do you agree on Carla?
Karen Ortman 53:28
That's funny. That is very funny. Is there anything that we have not talked about today that you would like to share?
There is a Pat Kelly promise landing page that we are building off of. And we are looking to create this groundswell to reach more families to raise awareness, again, to help us continue to change the face of cancer. And we would invite everybody to go check out the Pat Kelly promise landing page on the family reach website. And that's when you will see, we are updating photos of Pat, you're going to see what Patrick Patrick is going to become a spokesperson for this mission. So Patrick is going to be you're going to see a lot of him talking about this. When it is safe. We are going to bring Patrick to the hospital, he is going to meet families, he is going to get entrenched in this. And we are we will be documenting this through the website. So we invite people to go to the Pat Kelly promise page on the family reach website. We invite you to sign the pledge. There is no financial commitment. You just now get on the mailing list where you're going to see these behind the scenes and updates on our progress and on our impact. And you can also make a donation there but I would just invite everyone to join us. We're going to have a lot of fun. And we're gonna do some real good, awesome.
Karen Ortman 54:53
Well, on that note, I want to thank my guests Kari, Patrick, Carla, for joining me today on you matter. Your work is inspirational important, and I will do my best to make sure the world knows about it. Thank you. Thank you for shedding some light on this. Thank you for having us. Oh, my pleasure. So thank you again to my guests, Kari, Patrick and Carla and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of you matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing, please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999 or the Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. Please share like and subscribe to you matter on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Tune In