Ann Blackford

By

College: Health Sciences

Giving Back: Pair of Physical Therapy Alumnae are True Champs for Children

Published: Jul 11, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 11, 2013) − The odds are stacked against some children from the get-go. They may be raised by parents who struggle with drug addiction, or parents who are completely absent in their lives, not to mention the swarm of potential negative influences circling right outside their front doors. Those circumstances, however, do not have to define a child’s future.

 

Just ask Stephanie Kelly, whose husband, Anthony “Champ” Kelly, was one of those children who set out in life with the odds stacked against him.

 

“My husband was raised in a very broken home, plagued with addiction, absent parents and a lot of negative influences,” said Stephanie, who received her master’s degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences  in 2008. “Sports were his saving grace. Many coaches poured into him, helped raise him and kept him from falling down the same path of destruction that many of his family members were going down.”

 

Champ emerged from his troubled childhood and went on to graduate from UK with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and a master’s degree in Business Administration. Champ played college football for UK and played professionally for the Lexington Horsemen. For the past several years, Champ has worked as the Assistant Director of Pro Personnel for the Denver Broncos.

 

Stephanie and Champ wanted to give back to the community and help youth who may be facing the same long odds. They wanted to offer a saving grace of sorts. In 2010, they founded Heart Power, Inc., a nonprofit organization that ministers to youth and their families who are in search of positive and encouraging influences in their lives.

 

“We wanted to show kids that no matter one’s circumstances, you can make the right decisions, set goals and achieve those dreams,” said Stephanie, who serves as Executive Director of Heart Power Inc.

 

The couple and their team of dedicated volunteers reach out to youth through C.H.A.M.P. Camp, a free two-day, non-contact football camp for kids ages 10-17. During camp, kids are taught football fundamentals, but the true focus is on the importance of making the right decisions and learning crucial life skills, such as stress management. Campers are also able to interact with guest speakers, who include current or former NFL players and coaches, former collegiate players, and business leaders. Most importantly, they are taught the importance of living life as a “C.H.A.M.P.” – with character, heart, attitude, motivation and pride.

 

“Our camp provides these kids, who may not otherwise have the opportunity to attend a camp, two days of fun, where they are supported and encouraged by wonderful men and women in the community,” Stephanie said. “We always pray that just one life may be changed, or one child may make a better decision that will affect his or her future because of the lessons learned at C.H.A.M.P. Camp.”  

 

Stephanie’s training and professional experience as a Physical Therapist in a pediatric setting informs her work with C.H.A.M.P. Camp. If a child with special needs attends camp, she is able to use her expertise to modify the drills and activities based on the child's diagnosis.  

 

“It is our vision and dream that all kids would attend our camp,” Stephanie said. “We have had kids with special needs attend our camp, and the reaction they receive and the energy they portray is contagious. It is wonderful to see all the kids getting together and playing a sport they love.”

 

Kelly Colson, who is also a 2008 UK Physical Therapy graduate, serves as secretary for the Heart Power, Inc. Board of Directors and is an event coordinator for the C.H.A.M.P. Camp events, which are held each summer in Denver and Panama City, Fla., in addition to Lexington. Kelly is self-employed as a Physical Therapist and works with children with special needs.  

 

“My training as a PT gives me some medical background to assist with any injuries that may occur at the camp. I also believe that my work as a PT has given me great connections with families, especially with kids, and I really want to help them succeed in life,” said Kelly. “This camp is just a small stepping stone to make a difference with kids in another way.”

 

Volunteers to assist with the camp are always in demand, and any donations will assist Heart Power, Inc. in continuing to provide camps free of charge to deserving kids. For more information on how you can help, please visit www.heartpowerinc.org.

 

Media Contact: Ann Blackford at 859-323-6442 or ann.blackford@uky.edu 

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