One year ago this weekend, as Dorchester was winding down at Dot Day backyard barbeques, word started to filter out about four-year-old Tommy Kelly. The kindergartner from St. Ann’s, son of Katy and Eddie of the well-known firefighting family in Neponset, had been sick for several days. A visit to Children’s Hospital earlier in the week had resulted in a chilling diagnosis: Stage 4 cancer in the kidneys. It may have spread beyond that. The odds were daunting.
The news was a kick in the stomach to friends of the Kelly clan and anyone with small kids. But, in characteristic Dot fashion, Katy and Eddie Kelly and their kids, Maggie and, of course, Tommy, turned their private anxieties into a courageous public battle that has galvanized the community far beyond the borders of our town-turned-neighborhood.
An overflow crowd packed the pews of St. Ann’s church that week to pray the rosary on the eve of his first operation. As little Tommy plunged into his struggle, “Fight like TK” became the rally cry of the summer. Hundreds of neighbors emptied their pockets and shaved their heads in solidarity with Tommy. The ladies from Aidan’s Barbershop donated their time and clippers to do their honors— at no charge. Firefighters from across the world joined in and posted images of their freshly shorn domes. Thousands packed Florian Hall for a fundraiser last fall and everyone has kept up with updates posted by his dad on a Facebook page.
A year later, Tommy is still fighting and winning. His hair has grown back and he just got his first haircut in a year at Aidan’s. His dad posted yesterday that Tommy’s team of doctors are “very happy with his current state of health.”
In an ad printed in today’s Reporter (Page 21), the Kellys seek to thank the Dorchester community for the aid people have given through the Tommy Kelly Fund. And they relay news that is better than we could have hoped for last Dorchester Day:
“One year into this journey, we could not be happier to share with you that Tommy received a clear reading on his most recent scan and that he is also officially transitioning into the post-chemotherapy phase of his care! We look forward with optimism to his continued progress. With our ingrained faith and the fortune of continued prayers from all, we fully envision Tommy leading a happy, healthy and long life (fueled by his limitless imagination!) Tommy is and will always be our greatest hero!”
Thank you to the Kelly family— and all of their supporters— for what they do everyday to make this a community worth fighting for. And, Tommy, thank you for your courage.
Happy Dorchester Day, TK!