Today my daughter Kelly Claire Levengood committed to Hofstra University to play field hockey while studying something scientific and mathematical. I won’t be much help with the latter part of her commitment, but thankfully she’s never needed my help with school. Kelly pretty much intellectually surpassed all her parents by the time she was ten years old.
This post isn’t about congratulating Kell Bell with a public display of written affection, she already knows how I feel. I am however compelled to thank everyone who has influenced my amazing daughter. Insert cringey cliché about how it takes a village to raise a child #here.
To my husband Jesse. You chose our daughter to be yours in the very same moment you chose me. Thank you for giving her a steadfast role model on how to be an elite athlete and what a really good guy looks like. You have set the standard really freaking high, and we love you without end.
To Kelly’s brothers Joe, Kevin, Jack and Cruz. I know how proud you are of her achievements. You have never made that a secret, even on the days when you pretty much deny being related to her. All three of you have helped keep her feet firmly planted on the ground. Let’s just say Kelly was not destined to be an only child, but she was destined to be the only girl.
To Kelly’s father John. I’m woman enough to admit that some of what makes Kelly Leven-great is inherited from you. Her attention to detail, inability to ignore deadlines and her disdain for procrastination are all amazing qualities. Plus—she’s very clean and organized, which will make her a great roommate.
To Kelly’s Godparents Kevin and Janine. Thank you for always being there for my girl. Neen cared for Kelly as a baby as her Nanny long before we shared a last name. Over fifteen years later, she regularly shows up to the high school slide line to support her oldest niece. “Uncle” is the humble example of what overachievement looks like in every stage of life. I love hearing Kevin talk to his niece about collegiate athletics at family dinners almost as much as hearing them exchange multiple “I love yous” at the end the evening.
To all the Kellys. We don’t see my extended family as often as we’d like, but when we do, we know how much they love and support Kelly. My older brother Brian and his wife Kim have two boys, so they have always had a soft space for our family’s first girl! My Dad’s Mom and sisters celebrate every one of Kelly’s achievements and gifts as if they see her everyday. My nephew Collin Kelly loves Kelly with the protection of a brother and the laughter of a cousin. We selected the perfect name for our daughter, and part of her legacy will always be knowing how much she is loved by the extended Kelly clan!
To Kelly’s Teachers. I’ll never tire of hearing how much you enjoy having her in class, even though I stopped going to back-to-school night when she was in sixth grade. I’m sure there are days when teaching an intense perfectionist can be just as difficult as having an unengaged student. You have all helped prepare her for what is to come. We still have a senior year of AP hell left, but lucky for me, the only responsibility I bear is to make sure she occasionally makes time to sleep and eat each day.
To the CrossFit Community. The examples of strength Kelly has witnessed over the past 13 years have shown her that in the end, hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. Kelly has always been encouraged and celebrated by our 1Force community and beyond, often showing off her butterfly pull ups and handstand pushups at comps when she was a teeny tot. Today, she’d rather die than showboat any skills, but boy was it fun watching her in those early years! Thank you CrossFitters both past and present for fostering a love of fitness and intensity in my daughter. You will see her atop the Wodify leaderboard daily until she leaves for Hofstra, because college preparation begins NOW.
To Kelly’s Coaches. On most days, it’s a thankless job, but not today. I thank the dance teacher for telling me it was time to take her to gymnastics instead when she was 3 because Kelly “really only cares about the cartwheeling drill at the end of class.” I thank the few gymnastic coaches she had on her seven-year journey who gave her a loving and soft place to fall in a sport so sharp it cuts the strongest of athletes to pieces. I thank our hockey coaches for teaching her the love of a team sport and the skill to make enough noise on the field to get the opportunity to play at the next level. She’s a different player than she was five years ago when she started playing, and the foundation you have helped her build will serve her well over the final five.
To Kelly’s Teammates. If you don’t love who you do it with—you don’t wanna do it. Watching you pick each other up in the difficult moments is truly the best part of watching sports. I have mad respect for anyone willing to bleed for their teammates and am proud that my kid learned that from some of the best in the game. When you want to be good for yourself, you will be good—but when you want to be good for your team—you will be your best.
To Kelly’s Friends. Thank you for being such great athletic examples for Kell and amazing human beings. You are all very lucky to have found each other at such a young age, and I look forward to watching you all grow, succeed and cherish each other for the rest of my life. Remember—there’s nothing that can’t be solved with an honest heart-to-heart and some fried chicken. You will always have a place in my heart and home as the sisters Kelly chose.
To my chosen Sisters. You celebrate Kelly as if she was your own, giving her a network of strong women to admire. From a tactical perspective, you even help get her where she needs to go when I’m unable, ensuring she has a full stomach and strong words of encouragement! Your counsel keeps me sane, which in turn, helps me efficiently manage my overachieving child. I love you all.
To Jesse’s Family. From day one, Kelly was yours. Kelly was never a stepdaughter, step granddaughter, step great granddaughter, step niece or step cousin—she was just family. At 4-years old, she was a towhead, blue eyed, freckled cherub, but that didn’t stop her from being a Puerto Rican “Mama” in your heart. We are grateful that Kelly doesn’t remember before we joined your family, because kids need all the unconditional love that they can get.
To Our Mom Mom. You take grandparenting to the next level. You’ve always been the back-up Mom, and never once have you said no to a ride to practice or a game. But most importantly—you stepped up to love and support Kell triple hard during the hardest years of your life, and you did it with an easy grace that can’t be described. Watching her love you unconditionally speaks to the investment you have made in her development. Thank you for helping mold her into such a remarkable young woman.
To Kelly’s Greatest Fan. My Dad never saw Kelly compete in USAA gymnastics or play field hockey, but he was and still is her #1 fan. My Mom shared that with Kelly just after she committed this morning. Joe Kelly helped countless kids on their collegiate baseball journey, decades before Kelly was born. She had his same intensity for the college selection process, doing her own research, contacting the schools she was interested in, emailing coaches, managing her highlight reel production and scheduling her visits once she whittled down the list. As her parents, all we had to do was drive her to the visits and pay for the snacks. I only wish my father was here today to rock a HOFSTRA PRIDE jacket and tell anyone who would listen about his best girl heading to Long Island.
And lastly, to my dearest Kelly… The ball is on your field now kid. You know what you have to do and how you have to do it. Things won’t always be easy, but just use your strengths to create balance. You might wobble, but you will never fall. Thank you for being so easy, even on the days when you aren’t.
Many, many years from now you will know how I feel, when you watch your dream come true make her dreams come true. Until then, know that I love every ounce of you with all that I am and all that I have, for the rest of my days. Congratulations!