On Dec. 1, Middlefield resident Christine Willett was awarded the first annual Howard Kelley Community Award by the Coginchaug Valley Education Foundation.
Christine, a cancer survivor, has raised more than $50,000 through her charity, After The Storm, which she formed not long after battling breast cancer to help others fighting the disease.
"It feels really good knowing, since 2009, what we've been able to accomplish," says Christine, who at the age of 30 was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with her second son, Chase.
With the support of family, including her husband Bruce and oldest son Connor, Christine underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. She also relied on integrative medicine, like yoga and reflexology, during her recovery.
Through charity events, including ATS's popular , the organization supports programs that promote well-being after diagnosis.
Christine says the award, which is named in honor of the late Howard Kelley, longtime superintendent of schools for Regional School District 13 and is given to "a community member who embodies the spirit of Howard's leadership in the community, particularly his devotion to volunteerism and education," has special meaning to her.
"I knew Howard. Our families go to Emmanuel Church in Killingworth and I know how much he did for the community," she says. "It makes it even more special because I knew him."
Christine shares Kelley's love for the community.
"It's nice to be recognized by your hometown. None of this would be possible, really, without them. I'm hoping by getting this award more people in the town will get involved."
Each year more people have gotten involved. In 2009, Christine raised $10,000, a figure that jumped to more than $25,000 this year.
While much of the money will be donated to the Center for Integrative Medicine in Oncology at Middlesex Hospital’s Cancer Center, Christine said ATS will donate $2,500 to Midstate Medical Center in Meriden, Griffin Hospital in Derby and Saint Raphael Hospital in New Haven.
"This has been our best year ever," she said.
"Christine’s accomplishments, as well as the number of people she has helped, are many. She saw a need in her community and created the solution by tirelessly raising money to donate," CVEF member Maggie Peterson says. "She is an inspiration."
Maggie Peterson contributed to this article.