Watch a video of Kelly talking about the founding of the KBF and what it means to handcyclists. WATCH HERE.
Kelly has always considered herself an athlete above all else. Whenever the question “What do you like to do?” was asked, Kelly’s response was an automatic “Play sports.” Growing up with older sister Lindsay in Charlotte, Vermont, Kelly started skiing and doing gymnastics before kindergarten. In grade school, the world of competitive sports started. Kelly competed in soccer, basketball, softball, swimming, and ski racing. She went to the Green Mountain Valley School, a ski academy, for highschool. The emphasis was on ski racing, but Kelly also captained the soccer and lacrosse teams while there. Kelly also loved to play golf, ice skate on the pond behind her home, water-ski on Lake Champlain in the summer, and most recently she went to Costa Rica to learn to surf. On the competitive side, it all boiled down to ski racing for Kelly.
When Kelly began ski racing at the age of seven she was called a ‘tiger’ for her hard charging, confident style. Kelly decided that she preferred the cheetah’s graceful athleticism and carried a small plastic cheetah in her pocket to ski races. That cheetah mentality helped Kelly to numerous victories which intensified her passion for the sport. Kelly worked her way up in the national rankings, particularly in the fast speed events of Downhill and Suger G, and qualified to race in the US National Championships her junior and senior year of highschool. Kelly then turned her attention to collegiate ski racing. Skiing on a NCAA Division I team was her goal and skiing specifically for Middlebury College on the Eastern Winter Carnival circuit was her dream. She wanted to follow in the footsteps of her parents (though Mom skied for the University of Vermont) and her older sister Lindsay. She was elated when she received an acceptance letter from Middlebury College to the class of 2008.
During her freshman year Kelly had to work hard to earn the coach’s confidence, and was rewarded for her tenacity by being chosen to ski in three of the six Carnival races. She proved worthy of her selection by being a solid performer for Middlebury in all of those races. As a sophomore Kelly had to again fight for a spot on the Carnival team and when she got the nod for a start, she rose to the occasion. She placed 8th in the Dartmouth Carnival Giant Slalom, the 2nd Middlebury finisher. This earned her a start at the Williams Carnival where she was a solid finisher in the Slalom race the first day. To this point, Kelly had never fallen in a collegiate ski race. She was always solid as a rock and someone the coaches could depend on when the going got tough. The Middlebury Carnival, which is the Eastern Championships and grand finale of the Carnival circuit was the next goal for Kelly. Placing well in the Giant Slalom at Williams would solidify her spot in that race. Her grandparents were coming from Michigan and Kelly hoped to ski for Middlebury in front of them and the many students who line the Middlebury Snow Bowl course. Unfortunately, that dream would never come true.
Kelly’s dream was cut short on February 18, 2006 at Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, at the Williams College Winter Carnival. The Giant Slalom trail was solid and fast after rain the previous day. Kelly, starting number 12, came over a knoll and caught an edge on an icy patch. She fought to stay in the course but her ski edge grabbed and she was catapulted off the trail, striking a lift tower stanchion as she fell. Her injuries included a spinal fracture at the T 7-8 level, four fractured ribs, a fractured vertebra in her neck, and a collapsed lung. Her helmet cracked and flew off during the fall but luckily it saved her from any trauma to her brain. Kelly underwent ten hours of surgery to re-align and stabilize her spine at the Berkshire Medical Center later that day. The spinal cord wasn’t severed but it was badly displaced and bruised. She continued her rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado for the next two and a half months. The staff at Craig was instrumental in getting Kelly back on the road to independence. It is a wonderful place full of optimism and can-do spirit. If sheer willpower and determination made any difference Kelly would be walking, but unfortunately her spinal cord is not cooperating. Currently, Kelly has use of her arms and feeling at chest level and above. She is dependent on a wheelchair.
Kelly returned to Middlebury College in the fall of 2006 and continued to be an active member of the ski team. She cheered from the sidelines at every Carnival race, learned how to ski in a mono-ski, and fore-ran the giant slalom race at the Middlebury Carnival in 2008. Kelly graduated from Middlebury with her class as a Film and Media Culture major on May 25, 2008.
In January of 2009 Kelly received the NCAA Inspiration Award in Washington D.C. Other NCAA Honorees included Billie Jean King, Steve Young, and Madeleine Albright. It was an amazing experience for Kelly and her family.
Following graduation, Kelly was hired by ESPN and worked in Commercial Operations in their Bristol, Connecticut headquarters for a year before deciding to return to school to pursue another avenue. In September of 2010 Kelly started nursing school at the MGH Institute of Health Professions school in Boston. She is enrolled in a three year Master of Science in Nursing program to become a nurse practitioner. She is living near Mass General Hospital and enjoying all that Boston has to offer, particularly the beloved sports teams.
Kelly’s story is far from over. She takes great pride in her Kelly Brush Foundation and asserts her input on a regular basis. She continues to thrive and loves to participate as often as possible in outdoor activities such as skiing, biking, tennis and golf. Kelly has the ability to overlook the many obstacles that her injury presents and finds the joy in living each day.