From left, Kim Kelly, her son, Greg, and WTKR anchor Barbara Ciara. Greg presented the bouquet of flowers to his mother during today’s graduation ceremony. He also used his computerized communication device to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in a surprise for his mother and the staff, family and friends gathered in St. Mary’ s Atrium.
Seven years ago, Kim Kelly was scared when she brought her son to live at St. Mary’s Home — scared that no one could care for Greg as well as she and her mother did.
“When I was able to see all they did for him — the care he received, the love that he received — it was more than I could give him on my own. … St. Mary’s was the best decision for him,” Kelly recalled today as Greg and five other young adults graduated from the Home.
Kelly said it was hard to “put seven years of wonderful” into just a few minutes as she spoke during the ceremony. She thanked the staff for loving her child and all of the children, and for making St. Mary’s a place where Greg could be happy and safe.
“Angels really do exist,” she said. “They exist right here.”
The young people who graduated today are 21, the age young adults leave the Home, or will turn 21 in the next year, and graduation signals the end of their formal education.The graduates will be missed as they move on to other places, such as adult intermediate care facilities or group homes.
The caregivers and teachers who knew the graduates the best shared a bit about them during the ceremony and talked about how much they had learned from Demetrias, Devonta, Greg, Justin, Katheryne and Steven. They reminisced about planning birthday parties, decorating beds, sneaking special treats and watching the children grow into young adults. “You don’t see them as your students — you look at them as your children,” said teacher Gay James Parson.
WTKR NewsChannel 3 anchor Barbara Ciara, the keynote speaker, said it was obvious from hearing the stories that “you guys — you’re not staff, you’re family.”
“My grandmother used to say that ‘Children are like lumps of clay,’ ” Ciara said. “What she meant by that is each person who touches a child leaves an impression. And what I’ve found here today is there are a lot of good impressions on the children who are growing and living here at St. Mary’s. You walk in here and you’re just enveloped by the love and the caring, and it’s just a good place to be.”
WTKR aired a story about graduation during its 4 p.m. newscast, but Ciara also promised to come back to share more about St. Mary’s Home, which has been caring for Virginia children for 65 years.