Community Shows Its Love For Ailing Teacher Todd Kelly

POTTSTOWN PA – Dozens of students, alumni and residents this week are demonstrating their love and support for Pottsgrove High School English teacher H. Todd Kelly, who reportedly was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), by participating in a fund-raising effort to send him and members of his family on a much-deserved vacation.

"Aida" set designer and Pottsgrove High teacher Todd Kelly

“Aida” set designer and Pottsgrove High teacher Todd Kelly in September 2011

ALS, also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord and reduces the body’s ability to use its muscles and move. It is named for the hall-of-fame baseball player for the New York Yankees who was diagnosed with ALS in the 1930s. Kelly’s walking and strength have already been affected, according to friend and fellow teacher Patricia Carroll.

It was Carroll who, early Tuesday (Dec. 10), launched a community fund-raising campaign online to fulfill Kelly’s dream of taking his family on a vacation trip to England. As of Wednesday morning (Dec. 11) – thanks to a wildfire spread of the news via social media – 194 donors had given an average of $47 each to make the trip possible.

A total of $9,000 is already pledged toward what was a $10,000 goal, and the fund-raiser at the website has 9 more days to run. Contributions can be made here.

Kelly is holding up well despite the disease’s progression. “He remains the same witty, demanding, dramatic, intellectual, and professorial teacher” that Pottsgrove students and parents have known for many years, Carroll wrote in her campaign appeal.

“Todd is his family’s primary wage-earner, and this disease promises a significant toll on his family’s financial situation,” she added. “We would like to do whatever we can to show Todd how much we appreciate his inspiration, dedication, skill, and friendship.  Teachers, staff, former students, and friends are banding together to make his dream of traveling a reality.”

Almost all donors so far have left accompanying messages that shower Kelly with praise and accolades for his talent as an educator and the mentorship he offered students.

In addition to his command of and ability to teach English and literature, Kelly may be best known to the broader local public for guiding many Pottsgrove theatrical productions, most recently the November (2013) staging of “Snow Off-White.” He also helped direct several students in the national Wordwright Challenge, in which Pottsgrove participants have won top honors for reading comprehension.

During 2011, Kelly was among those nationally recognized by Scenographics, a Denver CO-based company that specializes in theater set design and construction, with a first-place award for the high school’s stage production of the musical “Aida.”

Photo from the Pottsgrove School District