Name: Kelly Long
Organization: Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley
Bio: I am a Parent Advocate. I advocate for services and accommodations for special needs children in the school systems.
What first inspired you to become involved in the community?
What do you enjoy most about volunteering in our community?
What type of volunteer work are you or have you been involved in within your community?
I was one of the original board members of the Walnut Grove All Inclusive Special Needs Playground until I had to step back for medical reasons. I am on the Board of Directors for the Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley.
What advice would you give anyone to give back to our communities?
I would advise anyone to look into the heart of our community. I’ve encountered so many kind generous people in our community who willingly helped our nonprofits just because they were asked. We had people donate tons of concrete, materials, and labor for the Walnut Grove playground just because someone reached out. We have alot of good people in our community.
What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
Survivor by Destinys Child
What is your vision for the future of our community?
I hope to see the full vision of the Walnut Grove come to fruition. I hope to see a track, football field, and baseball field there someday. I hope to see expanded programming for the Autism Society. I hope to see Vocational training programs for young adults with Autism and a more encompassing umbrella of resources to fit every need of those affected with Autism in our community.
What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?
This is an easy one. Watching my twin daughters grow to adulthood. My girls were born 3 months premature weighing 2 lbs a piece. My daughter Kamryn had a stroke shortly after birth. Her twin Reygan, had the first of several brain surgeries for a neurological condition called Dandy-Walker syndrome. Reygan is actually missing ⅓ of her brain and has a VP shunt and hydrocephalus.I was told by seven specialists that neither of my girls would ever walk or talk. I was told Reygan would be a vegetable and Kamryn would likely be paralyzed. But we had other plans. We did intensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and social skills groups 4 days a week, 3 hours a day from the time they were 15 months old until they were 10. Both girls have Autism. But today they’re competing in special needs cheerleading with Dana Winters, Kamryn played school volleyball for Canfield, and both girls ran track for Canfield. Kamryn was able to advance from our special needs squad to a typical senior level squad. Both girls far exceeded expectations for them and have forged their own path in the world and I couldnt be more proud of them.
Who is your role model and Why?
My role model is my mother, Vicky McConnachie. When I was 12 years old I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. My mother never let me use my disease as a crutch. She taught me that my diabetes doesnt define me and to continue on despite my diabetes. She’s been strong for me and been my rock through my kidney failure as my disease progresses. Ill be starting kidney dialysis soon and will be needing a kidney transplant in the months ahead. But I still work hard no matter how I feel just as she taught me.
If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present and why?
I would LOVE to meet Temple Grandin. Shes not only a scientist and animal behaviorist but she is a spokesperson for people with Autism. I could talk to her for hours picking her brain about Autism and incorporating a better way to understand those with Autism.
A favorite quote that you live by?
It is what it is.