A Mesa family who will be entering the new year without their patriarch recently received a visit from a Santa wearing blue and bearing gifts to make sure they weren’t forgotten at Christmas.
On Friday, the family of Mesa police Officer Mark Kelly received a $1,000 Target gift card from the Mesa police officer’s assistance fund and the Mesa Police Association. Arriving in a patrol car at the Target store at 1230 S. Longmore, Santa Claus presented the Kelly family the gifts from Mesa residents, members of the police department and Target workers. The Kellys also received a Christmas dinner.
Mark Kelly died in September after a two-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) at the age of 32, leaving five children and his wife, Liz, behind. Many of Kelly’s family members and friends always were quick to say that he faced his fatal illness with acceptance and courage and maintained his sense of humor through his struggles.
ALS is a terminal neurological disease that destroys the nerve connections between muscles and the brain, eventually robbing the patient of his ability to walk, speak, swallow or breathe.
Kelly had four sons and one daughter.
“Mark Kelly’s police family and the community will always make sure their needs are met and the holidays are special,” said Sgt. Ryan Russell of the Officer Assistance Fund. “The public genuinely cares about the Kelly family because we all mourned his loss.”
Kelly, who was diagnosed with the fatal disease in April 2009 after he was having problems effectively shooting his service weapon at a target from a short distance, was told by doctors he had two to five years to live. He left his job in the summer of 2010 after his condition worsened
Like Gehrig, the Hall of Fame slugger who played for the New York Yankees in the 1920s and ’30s who died of the disease at age 37 in 1941, As Kelly faced his affliction with courage, his colleagues banded together to donate more than 1,000 hours of vacation time so he could continue receiving a paycheck, and often held fundraisers for him.
The Officer Assistance Fund is a nonprofit organization that financially assists Arizona police officers who have been injured or killed in the line of duty.
There are about 400 people with ALS in Arizona, and 175 in Maricopa County, according to Kim Hughes, of the Arizona Chapter of the ALS Society. Nationally, about 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year.
In October, Kelly’s mother, Carla Kelly wrote some of her feelings on the MPA’s website: “I guess as time goes on we will figure this all out and what we learned along the way. But thank you all again for taking the journey with us.”
If anyone is interested in making a donation to the Kelly family or the Officer Assistance Fund, they can donate to the Mesa Police Association Officer Assistance Fund account at any Wells Fargo Bank bank branch. They may also mail it to the Officer Assistance Fund at 123 N. Centennial Way, No, 207, Mesa, Arizona, 85201, or visit www.officerassistancefund.com.
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