Meet Kelli Kelley, Outstanding Austin Communicator Award Winner


Written by Maria Cammack.

Kelli-Kelley-headshotKelli Kelley is the Founder and Executive Director of Hand to Hold, a national non-profit organization based in Austin, TX.  Hand to Hold provides information, support and education for parents before, during and after a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) stay or in the event of infant loss.

On May 2nd, Women Communicators of Austin (WCA) will be honoring Kelli with the Outstanding Austin Communicator Award.

Kelli has lived in Austin for 25 years and what she enjoys most about this city is the personal and professional friendships and connections she has made here.  She describes Austin as a large city with a small town feel. Kelli is certain founding Hand to Hold in another city would have been much more challenging.  Austin embraces new ideas especially those that will impact the greater good of the community. Get to know our award winner a little better in this Q&A

Q: What do you find most rewarding in your role?
A: As the parent of two children born preterm, I understand the emotional, physical, financial and psychological challenges so many NICU parents face.  It is a personal blessing to use my time and talents to help new parents navigate their NICU journey in an effort to mitigate the devastating emotional impact of having a medically fragile child.

Q: What do you find most challenging in your role?
A: There is never enough time in the day.  I, like most women, struggle to find balance between work and home.  My husband and children remind me frequently to turn off my cell phone at night so I can be fully present when we are together.

Q: Tell us a little about your communications experience
I love seeing how God weaved together all my past communication experience as well as personal and professional connections to prepare me to lead Hand to Hold.  Each experience, from college intern to PR manager at a high tech PR firm to my service on the AWC board and that of other non-profits, was preparing me to take on a role that I would have never imagined for myself.

Q: What is one of the best pieces of career or communications advice you have received?
A: I wish so much I could remember the insightful words of longtime AWC member Anne Durrum Robinson.  She has been gone now for many years, but I think of her often.   She was such an inspiration to me and countless others.  She taught us to recognize, harness and channel our creative intuition to enhance all areas of our lives.  Anne remained active professionally and in AWC well into her senior years.  I hope to have her longevity, love of life and enthusiasm for helping young communicators!

Q: What does being a communicator mean to you?
A: As communicators we have the power to bring people together, to inform them and empower them to make change.

Q: When you are not busy at Hand to Hold, how do you like to spend your time?
A: I am pretty boring actually.  Nothing makes me happier than watching a movie on the couch with my husband and kids.  In the summer we enjoy boating and long road trips.  I also love to read.  I have an amazing book club and we enjoy a diverse selection of genres every year.  A friend introduced me to years ago and now I am addicted!  I don’t dread doing laundry, grocery shopping or cooking near a much when I have a great book to listen to!

Q: What does WCA mean to you?
A: WCA has played a meaningful role in my personal and professional life for more than 20 years.  I joined WCA right after graduation as I cut my teeth in PR.  I have had the blessing of mentorship from countless members who have given of their time to help me grow professionally.  WCA members were present to help me hand address my wedding invitations, they supported me throughout my son’s long NICU stay and have walked alongside me as I have built Hand to Hold.

Q: Is there anything else you would like us to know?
A: I am beyond humbled to receive the Outstanding Communicator Award from WCA.  I do not feel worthy to be added to the list of amazingly talented communicators that have been chosen for this distinction.  I can only hope that I will continue to earn this honor as I use my voice and communication skills to ensure better outcomes for NICU families.

Join WCA on May 2nd at our 42nd Annual Banner Brunch to celebrate Kelli and our other award winners. Learn more and get your tickets here.

The Outstanding Austin Communicator Award recognizes Austin-area communicators who have made their marks with their body of work. Emphasis is on achievement, community service, promotion of the field of communications, and work history.

About Jennifer Van Gilder

A marketing research and health communications professional passionate about doing work that changes lives for the better. Adept team leader able to develop and execute integrated, multichannel public awareness campaigns and community-based solutions.

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