SHERIDAN — Sometimes the heart of a child speaks volumes without even trying. Kellan Healy, an 11-year-old Sheridan fifth-grader, happens to be one of those kids whose actions affected change not only in his parents, but also close friends and members of the community.
“From the time he was very little, he’s always had a huge compassion for people,” said Kellan’s mom, Kristin Healy. “He always gravitated toward old people who were not doing well. It’s just been his nature.”
While visiting California around the age of 5, Kellan noticed people living on the streets and started asking questions.
“We had a conversation about it and then I explained to him there was a shelter in Sheridan, because he was really wanting to help the people there,” Kristin Healy said. “He was really surprised to hear [there was a shelter in Sheridan]. He asked if he could start going out to help. I told him that we had to wait until he was older because I was afraid he was going to be more in the way than a helping hand at that age. I told him when he was 10, then he could start.”
Since that California trip, Kellan continued to beg his mother to allow him to help at Volunteers of America’s Homeless Shelter located on the Sheridan Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus.
“When he was 9, he was still asking, and I broke down and said OK, I’ll call the director and see what his take is on it,” Kristin Healy said.
She gave Claude Alley, director of Homeless Services, a call and easily set up a plan for Kellan to start helping out at the shelter.
“He has been a huge advocate to Kellan and the best mentor imaginable,” she said. “This is Kellan’s passion and Claude was more than happy to bring him on, which was kind of a risk on his part. He didn’t know how Kellan would behave up there.”
Two years later, Kellan consistently serves dinner to the residents of the shelter every Tuesday evening.
“I go there at 5 p.m. and serve them food and then I eat there and eat with everybody and talk to people and eat,” Kellan said.
Even with a typical 11-year-old’s schedule of running from sports practice to youth group, Kellan still makes his outreach to the shelter his top priority.
“It’s his favorite day of the week, hands down. He loves his sports, [but] that probably comes second,” his mother said.
He voluntarily expanded his duties to encompass the season of giving this year by organizing a dinner and gift giveaway with his friends and their parents.
“We did the dinner and there were 24 people there, so we had to make a lot,” Kellan said. “We got the presents and all the kids brought up the presents and then we went back down to the homeless shelter and we served dinner.”
Kellan’s dad, Ryan, cooked up “really good” brisket on hamburger buns and other families provided pumpkin pie, coleslaw and potato and regular salads.
On another occasion earlier this year, Kellan convinced his little sister to donate the money they raised at their lemonade stand, about $46, to the shelter.
He touches the hearts of the men and women working to rebuild their lives at the shelter, but also changed the thinking of his parents.
“That was one thing that was an adjustment for Ryan and my’s mentality. We have compassion for people as well, but Kellan was asking to hand out all this money,” Kellan’s mother said of a trip to Las Vegas they took a few years back. “Initially, we kind of held back, but then we realized, and Kellan had made a good point one time. We said we don’t know what they’re using it for, it’d be better to give food and I remember Kellan saying this…‘Mom, it’s not us to judge what they use it for.’ He was 100 percent right. Now we do.”
Kellan and the family remain fully invested in VOA’s Homeless Shelter and work to advocate for those working to better their lives there.
“It’s not just a matter of money that they’re lacking, they’re hurting in many other areas,” Kristin Healy said. “Actually seeing that firsthand, these are kind human beings who are trying to get better. Any way as a community we can facilitate that, I think it’s very, very important for our community to come together for them.”
Kellan would be the first to tell others the benefits and joy serving at the Shelter brings, and advises his peers to get involved.
“I like doing it. It’s fun. It’s not like it’s a boring thing to do, it’s fun,” Kellan said. “I would give advice saying it’s really fun. It’s a good thing to do. If a kid goes in there and serves, it really makes everybody happy. You’re probably going to make someone’s day.”