Cleburne Times-Review, Cleburne, TX

Features / Living

June 15, 2014

A childhood connection

Kelley family provides a safe home for abused children

Johnson County —

Childhood. Memories tucked away in our minds. 

Summer bike riding, playing outside until mealtime and jockeying for top place in neighborhood games. Saturdays at the movies. Swimming until yours fingers wrinkle. Drinking lemonade and hearing your stomach slosh when you run. Swinging so high you try to reach the sky. 

When it rains, making mud loblollies with bare feet, watching the mud ooze through your toes. Taking vacations. Lying outside at night on a quilt pallet, looking at the stars. Chasing fireflies and putting them in a jar. 

Not always.

Sadly, for some, childhood memories are those of neglect and abuse. On this Father’s Day, the story of Ken Kelley of Cleburne is about rising up in intervention for such children.

He and his wife, Anna, have hosted 12 foster children in their home, legally adopting four. Kelley said his greatest desire is for abused kids to have a childhood like his own.

“I grew up in Ruston, La., a middle child,” he said. “Keith was 16 months older and Kyle was 13 months younger. When we were little we were sometimes mistaken for triplets. Ruston was sort of like Mayberry. Everybody knew everybody and it was safe. We walked or rode our bikes to school.”

His dad, Tom, was a pharmacist and worked long hours at the local hospital. His mother, Martha, stayed at home until the children were older. 

But she had a job.

“Mother was so organized. We learned to do our own laundry when we were very young. Looking back I can see that most everything we did was to prepare us to be responsible.”

The boys’ love of the outdoors filled their spare time. His older brother, Keith, led the neighborhood gang in all sorts of creative games.

“We were all so competitive,” he said. We rode our bikes to a pond about a quarter of a mile down the hill where we fished all day long — had to be dragged inside.”

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