“Kelli knew so many people that I don’t think she would be forgotten, but I want people to know the kind of person she was and what she gave to the community. This is one way we can do it by telling her story and doing for others. We want to be sure that her legacy lives on,” Patsy Richmond passionately shares about her daughter.
Kelli Leigh Richmond has been described consistently as a ray of light who loved people. She was fearless and bubbly, her friends’ go-to for good times and good counsel. As big as her personality and smile were, her heart was bigger. Her mother Patsy glows when explaining her youngest daughter’s compassion and determination, “Kelli grew up fiercely independent. She knew what she wanted to do, and was very headstrong. She was going to do what she wanted.” This fire continued to burn bright even after Kelli was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the invincible age of 27. Kelli threw herself even more into her beautiful life: enrolling in dance class again, traveling to LA and Austin, going to music festivals, and maintaining a tireless social schedule all during her chemo treatments. Not only did she seek out good things for herself, but she continued to work wholeheartedly for Baton Rouge’s ALS organization as its development manager. In short, Kelli was a powerhouse, a petite powerhouse that changed the lives of those around her.
After two and half years of fighting and living ferociously, Kelli surrendered at the age of 30. But, her influence on others did not succumb to the same vicious disease that took her life. Her parents, Ron and Patsy Richmond, are dedicating themselves to assure that their baby girl who left this earth a strong woman, is still making a huge difference today.
The dream of Kelli’s Kloset developed in a moment while waiting for chemo treatment. Patsy recalls, “Kelli loved fashion. When she would lose weight due to her treatment, we would always go and get her some new clothes. One day while we were waiting, she noticed a woman whose skirt was pinned together to keep from falling. It hit her that many women could not afford to keep buying different sizes. She looked at me and said, ‘Mom, when I get better, I’m going to open a shop where women can come get free clothes while they are going through treatment.’ She said it a couple more times before she passed. We decided that was one thing we were going to do for her.”
Kelli’s Kloset opened in 2014 to meet a definite need for female cancer patients in our area. The store feels like a unique boutique stocked with trendy clothing for a variety of women complete with jewelry, belts, shoes, scarves, wigs, hats, and other accessories. Patsy has brought in women to run the shop who are committed to fashion and making women feel beautiful, just as Kelli would have wanted. Access to Kelli’s Kloset is very simple. Patsy explains, “The women can get whatever they want and come whenever they can. There’s no limit. They just have to give their doctor’s name to verify that they are patients.” Kelli’s Kloset is a true jewel in our capital city, and a lovely place where women going through cancer can go and feel beautiful again.
The Richmonds have not stopped at Kelli’s Kloset, though. The Foundation has another cause, Birthday Wishes. This vision came to Ron all of a sudden. “Kelli loved her birthdays,” Patsy remembers. “That was her big celebration. We always made a big deal over them. She would have a birthday week. They became even more special after her diagnosis. Ron was walking one morning and it just hit him. He said, ‘Don’t you think that would make someone feel good to get $1,000 for their birthday?’” The Richmonds use their foundation to bless a woman with ovarian cancer with $1,000 during her birthday month. Previous women who have received the gift have used it for family vacations to make memories, or do wonderful things for their children that they never could before. The Richmonds develop relationships with each of the recipients, which brings sadness along with the joy. Women diagnosed with ovarian cancer at stage 3 or 4 can usually expect two more birthdays, which is why the granted birthday wishes are so meaningful for many of them.
Not only have the Richmonds given back to the Baton Rouge community, they have received support as well. Last year, they were one of the charities chosen by the Spanishtown Parade Board. Coach Paul Mainieri and his wife Karen have also been devoted champions of Kelli’s Foundation. The Richmonds work hand-in-hand with Cancer Services, Mary Bird Perkins, Woman’s Hospital, and Ochsner to support the women in our area receiving treatment. Local businesses have participated in fundraisers for the foundation. The Richmonds will host their third gala, Kelli’s Party for Ovarian Cancer Awareness, October 6 downtown at Boudreaux’s. Just as Kelli loved her hometown, her hometown has returned the love in working with her parents to bring joy to many others battling her same illness. Patsy declares, “The main thing I want everyone to know is that the money that comes in the foundation stays right here, for local hospitals and local women. That’s what all the money goes to. We would like to give more birthday wishes and also give
Kelli’s heart and love for others has outlasted her lifespan. Ron and Patsy Richmond will continue to serve others with Kelli’s Kloset and Birthday Wishes with all that they have, just as Kelli would have wanted. ■