In March 1972, two months after her second birthday, Kelly Anne Dolan received the diagnosis of aplastic anemia at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 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 an ill, hospitalized child or go to work. Peggy and Joe realized that these problems were magnified for single-parent families and grandparents acting as guardians.
Change of Diagnosis
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. Joe and Peggy Dolan set the Fund in motion with the first form of income resulting from the information in her obituary notice. 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.
The Dolans 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. Social workers, case workers, nurses, therapists and other healthcare professionals refer their patient families for assistance through a simple on-line application process. The fund responds to critical needs generally within 24 to 72 hours, sending bill payments directly to creditors. This method of operation assures the credibility of requests while avoiding the misappropriation of funds.
In 2016 the Kelly Anne Dolan Memorial Fund celebrates 40 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 lightened the burdens and lifted the spirit of more than 27,000 families in crisis, providing hope, love, and support for children and their parents since 1976.