"Dan," she said, "you have to use the poncho, you'll go so much faster."
This is the advice from a 5’ 10” powerhouse of a woman to one of her gym members to help him have a faster ride down the blow up slide that's taking up the back quarter of her gym, CrossFit Agoge founded in 2007. The gym is in Montrose, a sleepy Southwestern Colorado town, the woman is Kelly Brown. She's wearing a FU Cancer shirt and bops around the Saturday night Barn Party among her gym community - she oscillates between making sure the human size foosball table she built doesn't collapse and taking turns tumbling down the slide. The energy around her is joyous, a community she and her husband built up in her garage gym long before the CrossFit games were on ESPN.
Kelly was an OG CrossFitter - she attended a public CrossFit Kids Seminar in 2008 and since then her life has been intricately intertwined with CrossFit. Kelly and John joined the CrossFit Kids Seminar staff in 2010. Their box opened a bit before the kids program was established. Her passion for keeping kids and adults healthy and moving them toward fitness is tangible. It's a purpose that has remained constant within her own life. This mission is intertwined with how people experience her in the world. When Todd, a long time friend, work associate, and mentor on the Kids Staff for CrossFit talks about all the memories he has of Kelly the Kids Summit she organized rises to the top and most favorite. The care and attention to detail displayed in coordinating an event that spanned several days. The full scope of Kelly’s influence when given the reigns was beautifully highlighted as kids and adults had the opportunity to work and play. This type of access to full hearted physical and mental development can be life changing, life forming. Todd continues his description of Kelly saying “An EXCEPTIONAL orator and gifted trainer/coach, Kelly makes people better.”
In addition to the work Kelly does with kids in the community she’s also a mom. Upon receiving her diagnosis of stage 3-4 Ovarian Cancer on February 9, 2016 she spent a lot of time thinking of her family; her children in particular. (10 and 7 years old at the time of her diagnosis.) As is her habit in turbulent times she tapped into her fighter’s mind and heart. Finding resolve, then preparing her body and mind for the impending surgery and chemotherapy. She continues with that same mindset today. John, her husband, who sweetly remembers the way Kelly smiled at him on their wedding day is in awe of the way she has managed through treatment. “The life that we have lived has prepared us for this fight and her toughness has rang through like a mission bell.” This sentiment is a common thread. She’s tough! It’s one of the things John admires about her. A walk-on college rower who spent morning practices on the freezing Charles River, fighting for her spot in the boat and then earning a scholarship on the team, rowing all four years. Along the way traveling with her team to the Collegiate Crew National Championships. She finished a competitive grad program at Boston University and acquired a spot in Physical Therapy School. She has patiently carried the burden of worry while John served time in the military. Giving and receiving support with other military families when it’s most needed. John and Kelly have endured financial disappointment and then rose up to build a thriving business. All this while raising two smart and independent kids. This is a woman who knows how to get things done. That is true even as she stares down cancer. There are definitely dark days… yet she has found a way to gather herself and continue. Without pity or doubt, Kelly is practical, fierce, and deeply devoted to the people around her. Impacting countless young lives in her work with CrossFit Kids. Kelly has grieved quietly and has done her best to keep her cancer diagnosis from defining her life. She has kept working, mothering, loving, and all around living in full capacity.
Sarah is one of Kelly’s friends and a coach at CrossFit Agoge. The two laughed until Sarah was in tears the day they ventured into a wig shop for Kelly. (Treatment was causing her to loose her hair). Sarah learned so much that day about her friend and about taking a situation that could feel sad and full of disappointment and instead turning it into fun. Another day Sarah remembers at the box “when I had given up on myself literally dozens of times, Kelly was there to remind me that finishing is never something to give up on. After class, I got teary and emotional, embarrassed of my performance. As a trainer in that gym, I feel responsible to set a good example for other athletes of how to perform. When I expressed my burden to Kelly, her response was beautiful and compassionate. Where I wanted to be perfect, she praised my struggle. Reassuring me that the example of a good athlete is not in a stellar performance but in the guts to work through something hard, she spoke truth to my soul that day. Kelly’s words and her presence let me know that I have a place in that gym, that we all do. She is immensely loyal and possesses a quiet kind of strength that speaks volumes to anyone who lives or trains with her.” Sarah has a vision of Kelly, head down, pulling a heavy sled. Striding with determination. She doesn’t stop, she doesn’t cry out. Through the difficult circumstances that life sets at her feet she braces herself against the weight and presses on.
Kelly’s husband John expressed how she is in a current search for normalcy, but is impatient to get there. “Her doctor, a very smart and soft spoken man with a warm yet severe look in his eyes, has been as much counselor as a physician. During one appointment, Kelly expressed her desire to get back to work, traveling, teaching CrossFit Kids Trainer’s Courses. He laughed as he often does, then his face turned with a distinct look of resolution and asked her why we were bothering to go through all of this?” She thought it was a trick question so he helped answer. “To Live your life. So go live. We will make it work.” These words have helped push her on when she has felt the most overwhelmed. Kelly’s life is tied to several things, but none so much as her family, her CrossFit Agoge family and the mission of the CrossFit Kids program. Her desire to return to work speaks to her resolve to see the mission of CrossFit Kids spread in order to impact the youth and their future.” The folks that know Kelly best understand she possesses an immense level of strength and fortitude.