In March 1972, two months after her second birthday, Kelly Anne Dolan received the diagnosis of aplastic anemia at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. The diagnosis introduced the Dolan family to a world of trauma, emergency trips, hospitalizations, separation, spiraling expenses, physical and emotional exhaustion, and great sadness.
It was during the five years of Kelly Anne's illness that her parents, Joe and Peggy Dolan, learned of the many hardships their hospital "neighbors" were experiencing. Parents were losing their jobs, their homes, their cars, and much-needed services like utilities and phone, because the physical time and financial costs of caring for a seriously ill child removed them from jobs and decreased their incomes. Parents had to decide whether to pay the rent or a doctor's co-pays, whether to pay a phone bill or parking fees at the hospital, whether to stay with a sick hospitalized child or go to work. Peggy and Joe realized that these problems became even more extreme for single-parent families.
Kelly Anne's condition evolved into a rare form of leukemia in the summer of 1976. She died from the effects of her illness on October 5, 1976, a little less than three months before her seventh birthday on New Year's Eve. The day after her death, Joe Dolan set the Fund in motion.
The mission of the Fund stemmed from the Dolans' realization and experiences that there were little to no resources to help families in these situations stay "afloat." They also recognized that, no matter what the diagnosis, serious childhood illness created the same psychological, physical, and financial instability for families in crisis.
They therefore established the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund to help families caring for children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and injuries. The Fund provides financial assistance for needs not covered by insurance, respite programs, and non-cash items to families in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, and advocates for and provides information to families nationwide.
In October 2014 the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund will celebrate 38 years of operation. Our story began with one little girl and her family, but it has grown to be so much bigger than that. Kelly's life and loving spirit inspired a mission that has touched 23,000 families, providing hope, love, and support for children and their parents since 1976.