On August 8th, 2015, Dick Kelley—former Boston College Assistant Athletic Director—was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.
Kelley, who lost his battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on February 13th, 2014, will continue to be remembered as an exceptional human being and a passionate mentor to countless Boston College athletes, a few of which include Jared Dudley, Reggie Jackson, Matt Ryan, Craig Smith, and Chris Kreider.
While Dick Kelley will always live on in the hearts of those he so profoundly affected, it's important to look back on Dick Kelley and remember his virtues fondly.
At the top of the list comes bravery. Dick Kelley exhibited an abundance of courage throughout his life, especially when he fought ALS after his 2011 diagnosis.
In a matter of three short years after his diagnosis, ALS tragically took his life. Yet, for those three years between his diagnosis and death, ALS could not stop Kelley from living an incredibly fulfilling life.
Kelley, unable to speak only a year after his diagnosis, communicated through a computer controlled by his head. He would interact with his players by sending emails, listening attentively, and even hosting dinners.
As his body failed, his spirit surged. As his muscles atrophied, his heart swelled with pride.
This is most evident as he emotionally accepted his US Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) Award for Courage, surrounded by athletes and athletic staff alike, whose support was evident in their enthusiastic celebrations and congratulations.
Kelley, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011—a year before Pete Frates was diagnosed—did not have the luxury of seeing or participating in any Ice Bucket Challenge videos. He was not able to watch the first ever Comm Ave Charity Classic, an event that supports Compassionate Care ALS and that raised over $55,000. And he was not able to watch this summer's resurgence of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Dick Kelley's battle with ALS occurred right before the wave of ALS awareness that began to pervade the country last year. And while ALS awareness still remains relatively high, knowledge about the disease itself remains particularly low, and Dick Kelley battled the disease at a point before many of us knew what it was.
And that's just another thing that makes Kelley even more courageous—even more of a hero. He battled a largely unknown but brutally vicious disease with every ounce of strength that he had, while most people had absolutely no idea what he was experiencing.
When somebody has cancer, it's especially easy to be sympathetic because so many of us know what cancer entails. It receives a lot of attention in the media. It receives a lot (but still not nearly enough) of funding. Many of us have even had loved ones who have been affected by cancer.
Yet, how many of us have had somebody we know affected by ALS? How many of us even know of anybody ever affected by ALS? Luckily, it's an extremely rare disease. Yet, it's extremely difficult for many to relate to those who have been impacted by it, namely because few people know anything about the disease beyond its name.
And though, like previously mentioned, ALS has garnered a massive amount of attention, widespread ALS awareness is still an incredibly new phenomenon, one that hardly existed when Kelley was diagnosed, even if his diagnosis came a mere four years ago. Yet, that didn't stop Kelley for a second. Why would it?
Now, nearly a year and a half after Kelley's battle with ALS, we can continue to remember him for everything he was and for all of the people he inspired.
ALS may have taken Dick Kelley, but it will never take his legacy. Only we have the power to make that statement true.
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