Follows Her HeartThen a beautiful little girl named Aurora was born with a congenital heart condition, she became the inspiration in changing Kelley McClellan’s future. It was because of her that McClellan accepted the position of the executive director of the Children’s Heart Foundation to make a difference in the community.
Aurora was born with a complex heart condition. The niece of a friend of McClellan’s, for 20 months McClellan was inspired by the joy, courage and challenges of Aurora’s life.
“She was a true warrior, and an inspiration to many in her short life,” McClellan stated. Shortly before she lost her battle to her congenital heart condition, the executive director position came available at Children’s Heart Foundation, and “I knew immediately that I wanted to be a part of making a difference for children like her and promote awareness of the impact that CHD has in our community,” she said.
McClellan grew up as a military brat and traveled the world as a child. Born in Fort Ord, California, she lived in several states, including Hawaii, and abroad in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Okinawa, Japan.
She moved to Las Vegas to be close to her mother as well as attend college, which led her to a career in the gaming industry. She worked with Station Casinos for nearly 10 years, which was one of the highlights of her leadership development. It also provided her with an education in gaming, human resources, training and marketing.
According to McClellan, “It had been a dream of mine to be an executive director for a children’s charity. A few years ago, after a major life change, I realized that putting off that dream until someday was keeping me from fulfilling my purpose and passion. A friend of mine that knew my heart called me one day about a position at St. Jude’s Ranch for Children as the director of development, and I seized the opportunity.”
She admits that her son Devin is an inspiration to follow her heart. The children and families she serves inspire her daily to be brave, strong and fearless in all that she does. “They remind me that every day is a gift and should be filled with giving my best in all I that do; that my purpose is to create joy and have a positive impact on every life I am fortunate to touch,” she explained.
One of her mentors for many years is Ann Nicholson, president and owner of the Simmons Group. “She is my greatest inspiration for believing in myself, for being a lifelong learner, for realizing the impact my life has on everyone I meet, for leading with my heart and for constantly evolving into my best version of myself.”
The Children’s Heart Foundation is committed to making a difference in the lives of heart families through emotional, educational and financial support to inspire a higher quality of life. Its four main goals are to provide a medically supervised, carefree camp experience for children with heart conditions, to educate health care professionals and the general public on pediatric cardiology issues, to lend support to families as they deal with the emotional and financial toll exacted by a child’s heart problem, and to support research efforts in the field of pediatric cardiology.
Congenital heart defects are the No. 1 birth defect in America and the No. 1 cause of death during the first year of life. In the United States, nearly twice as many children die each year from a CHD than all forms of childhood cancers combined.
McClellan also volunteers for other children’s foundations, including the Torino Foundation that provides their children’s heart camps, and Families for Effective Autism Treatment. She also enjoys spending time with her son and leads an active social life. Following her heart, Kelley McClellan is truly a Fearless Female.