When a young life ends abruptly – especially a person with huge potential to effect change in the lives of others – people impacted by the loss feel compelled to do something. That is exactly what Patti Geolat did when she formed the Something for Kelly Foundation after the death of her niece Kelly Burk Nobbe, who lost her battle with anorexia on the morning of August 7, 2009.
As the founder and CEO of Geolat and Associates, Patti is currently seeking to raise awareness regarding the severity and pervasiveness of eating disorders, with the help of her many business contacts in the gemstone and jewelry industry. In late February 2018, Patti sent an e-mail blast to industry associates asking for donations to the Something for Kelly Foundation.
The e-mail was also intended to be the first step in working with retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers Patti knows in the industry. With so many lives impacted by eating disorders, Patti reasonably assumes that given the depth and breadth of her professional contacts, a good number of them may know of someone struggling with eating disorders.
“Every 62 minutes someone dies as a result of an eating disorder,” says Patti. “Roughly 10 percent of the US population, or about 30 million people, suffer from some form of eating disorder – that’s about the same number who has Type II diabetes, which is confirmed to be an epidemic in the US. And, eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.”
Further, gem and jewelry industry members can become Foundation ambassadors – no matter what form that takes. From small donations and support, to selling or gifting retail customers with Something for Kelly Foundation jewelry, the emblematic circle pendant set with Kelly’s birthstone, amethyst. (New lapel pins and cufflinks were launched in March.)
Knowing Kelly’s short life but bountiful existence, Patti’s compulsion to start a foundation to raise awareness for eating disorders is perhaps part five of the grief stages many grapple with when a loved one dies. Kelly died in 2009. For four years Patti and her family experienced “denial,” “anger,” “bargaining” and “depression.”
“Nobody saw this coming,” says Patti. “She [Kelly] was never hospitalized for this. “Her sudden death put a tremendous strain on the family.”
“Acceptance,” the final stage of the grieving process, remained the most difficult for Patti’s family to overcome. For Patti, accepting the loss of her niece’s life started with eating disorder awareness walks.
“With the help of a group of supporters, my first walk to heighten awareness for eating disorders raised $4,000,” says Patti. “I was thrilled we were so successful in raising about 80 percent of the walk’s take of $5,000 that day. With that initial success I knew I could do more.”
Every August, the anniversary month of Kelly’s passing, Patti’s family meets at her sister’s house to honor her Kelly’s memory. For four years after that fateful early August day in 2009, Patti’s family had difficulties talking about Kelly or expressing their loss, or even voicing memories of her.
When the family met at her sister’s home in August 2013, Patti presented her sister with the 501(c)(3) documents denoting the new non-profit named Something for Kelly Foundation. “It was a very emotional day for my sister and our family,” says Patti. “But in some ways it helped us move past the loss of such an incredible young woman with so much potential.”
Kelly’s life was a textbook big family, small town, middle America story. Born on February 24, 1983, she was the oldest of three children born to Randy and Nancy Burk. As the first child, Kelly’s innate caring and nurturing nature created a sense of duty in looking after her younger siblings. She enjoyed sports and the outdoors, loved to travel, and was an excellent student. By all accounts, Kelly was that near-perfect child any parent would be proud to call their own.
As if that wasn’t enough, her inner beauty was transcended by her physical appearance. But when she went away to college, the distance from loved ones was difficult to bear. In an effort to control the aspects of her life that were within reach, Kelly became excessive about her exercise regimen.
Shortly after that, purging began. Then her high school sweetheart and husband Jared, loved ones, and friends were noticing the way Kelly was viewing her physical appearance or body image. Years of struggling with the eating disorder ended on August 7, 2009, when Kelly’s heart simply gave out. She went to bed and never woke up.
In 2013, when Patti and family members created the foundation dedicated to her niece, she wanted to host an event in time for Kelly’s birth month the following February. With the help of family, friends and supporters (mainly Kelly’s friends and former classmates from the Illinois area), seven months later Patti hosted her first Foundation sit-down dinner, complete with a bountiful banquet and speakers educating participants on eating disorders.
Since then a number of golf tournaments, volleyball matches and casino nights have brought in funds to the Something for Kelly Foundation to fuel its mission of raising awareness for eating disorders. It was only a matter of time before Patti tapped into her passion for jewelry to do even more for the foundation. In 2015, she commissioned the Kelly’s Circle pendant design.
Patti partnered with jewelry designer Amy Rugg to create price-point-friendly, sterling silver and vermeil circle pendants set with amethyst and CZ. Jewelry producer Kim International makes the Kelly’s Circle pendants for retail sale through the Foundation website (SomethingForKelly.org). Pieces average $100 to $125 each. (Higher end solid gold pendants are currently under consideration.)
“I wanted to do a circle pendant to have a design that was fashionable and symbolic,” says Patti. “And I wanted to make it affordable for people of all walks of life to own or give.”
Patti is currently seeking to work with jewelry retailers that want to purchase any number of Kelly’s Circle pendants – or the new lapel pins and cufflinks launched in March – to sell in their stores or to gift customers, family members or friends impacted by eating disorders. Kelly’s Circle jewelry and telling the story behind the foundation are also welcome part of this collaboration with retailers and industry members to help raise awareness about eating disorders.
Small orders can be fulfilled through the Foundation website, www.SomethingForKelly.org. For larger orders of 100 or more, quantity discounts are available. Retail jewelers can contact Patti through the Foundation’s website.