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Jim and Jill Kelly

Community Leadership Award

By Barbara A. Byers

Release Date: March 20, 2012

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Jim and Jill Kelly

Former Buffalo Bills quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Jim Kelly, along with his wife, Jill, have been contributing to the Western New York community for decades.

When he arrived in Buffalo in 1986, Jim Kelly established his Kelly for Kids Foundation to serve disadvantaged and disabled youth in Western New York through distribution of grant money. To date, nearly $4 million has been distributed to a variety of local children's charities.

In 1997, the couple established the Hunter's Hope Foundation, named after their son, Hunter James, who was born with Krabbe Disease, an inherited fatal disorder of the nervous system. Hunter succumbed to the disease in 2005 at age 8.

In 2004, Hunter's Hope Foundation teamed up with UB to establish the Hunter James Kelly Research Institute (HJKRI). The institute is funded by UB, Hunter's Hope and New York State, which allocated $10 million for the initiative. Located in UB's New York State Center for Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus in downtown Buffalo, the HJKRI research focuses on remyelination techniques and the biology and pathophysiology of Krabbe Disease, with the goal of discovering ways to correct the genetic defect responsible for the condition and other leukodystrophies and of developing effective treatments. The research is also expected to benefit patients with multiple sclerosis, stroke and other diseases involving white-matter destruction.

The HJKRI has already made significant progress in the development of a Krabbe Worldwide Registry, clinical evaluation and treatment protocols for Krabbe, as well as initiatives to maximize the success of Krabbe Newborn Screening programs.

Both Jim and Jill Kelly are devout Christians and have made increasing international awareness of Krabbe Disease their life's mission. Jill is both an author and public speaker who shares the family's struggles and messages of hope. Both the Kelly's are relentless in their search for a cure for Krabbe Disease as well as newborn screening to detect other inherited conditions.