Beaufort resident Paul Kelly was named a recipient of the Vigiano Family Hope and Courage award at the ninth annual Hope For The Warriors’ Got Heart Give Hope Gala in Arlington, Va., on Thursday night. One of six award recipients, Kelly was recognized as an avid supporter of service members, veterans and military families through his tireless work with Hope For The Warriors. Named in honor of the Vigiano family, who lost both of their sons in the September 11th attacks, the Hope and Courage awards are presented to service members and military family members who have demonstrated both hope and courage in the face of extraordinary circumstances.
“When I think of the Vigiano family and the previous recipients of this award and I reflect upon their examples of sacrifice, service and selflessness,” said Paul Kelly. “In accepting the award, I can only graciously accept the recognition for the small measures of good and examples of Hope I have been privileged to share with others over the past few years.”
Born into a military family at the Naval Hospital on Cherry Point, N.C., the military and military culture was a part of Kelly’s life from the beginning. His education at N.C. State University led him to a 32-year career as a Supervisory Electronics Engineer for the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). Kelly’s life changed when he broke his neck in a swimming pool accident shortly after college graduation. Leaving his lower body completely paralyzed and extensively paralyzed his upper limbs, the injury required hospitalizations and months of rehabilitation. Ultimately, Kelly became dependent upon caregivers for assistance with all basic life activities. Despite his newfound challenges, Kelly went on to lead teams and develop upgrades and modernizations of Navy and Marine Corps aircraft while working for NAVAIR. Serving as an advocate for the disabled, Kelly promoted Department of Defense policies to transition wounded and disabled military personnel to civilian service. His efforts earned him the recognition of NAVAIR’s Supervisor of the Year and Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award.
Kelly first witnessed handcycle marathoners as a spectator at the Marine Corps Marathon. Inspired and determined, Kelly decided to celebrate his 30th year of living with a disability by competing as a hand cyclist at the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon. While training, Kelly became aware of Hope For The Warriors and decided to use his marathoning effort to raise awareness and support for the military nonprofit. Over the course of the last decade, Kelly has completed 54 full marathons, 58 half-marathons and one 100-mile ultra-marathon across 18 different states. He’s completed over 35,800 miles in training, events and fundraising activities, and along with his wife, Sally, has raised over $86,000 in donations for Hope For The Warriors.
“Paul is one of the pillars of our organization in the Eastern North Carolina community,” said Robin Kelleher, Hope For The Warriors President and CEO. “His list of athletic accomplishments is impressive and as he is hitting his goals as he supports our military families.”
To learn more about Hope For The Warriors or find out how you can get involved, visit HopeForTheWarriors.org. Additionally, you can support Hope For The Warriors and its various programs by making a gift online, by phone at 877-246-7349, or by mail to 8003 Forbes Place, Ste. 201, Springfield, VA 22151.
Contact: Erin McCloskey