A Tribute To

Kelly O'Brien

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters … compared to what lies within us.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

CAPS is honored to carry a small piece of Kelly’s memory amid a lifetime of triumph. Adored by her classmates and staff, she embodied the reasons for Collaboratives to exist.

A Lasting Influence & Signature Smile

Kelly O’Brien embodied an outlook on everyday life we all strive to find in ourselves. As a sister, daughter, friend, classmate and teammate, Kelly developed unique and special relationships with many different people during her lifetime, never passing judgment and always remaining true to herself. She never allowed either her physical or mental limitations to stand in her way, exploring each possible avenue to the utmost degree of opportunity. Most importantly, Kelly showed that every day should be filled with a bit of laughter, parading her signature smile any where she went. She proved to all of us how far a positive attitude can influence those around you, always willing to give back so generously to those who gave opportunities to her.

Diagnosed just after birth with a severe cardiac condition, resulting in brain damage and cerebral palsy on her right side, it goes without saying that Kelly overcame the greatest of odds. Beyond the 15+ major surgeries on her heart, legs and brain early on in life, never wavering from her was an amazing amount of self-confidence, something we all found remiss walking through those school hallways. A member of the Gardner Public School system, Kelly was enrolled in the CAPS Collaborative Rainbow Program early in her schooling career. She thrived with the occupational and physical therapy staff enhancing her mobility, speech therapy developing communication and cognitive skills all while taking to assistive technology and an adaptive learning model in the classroom. 

As Kelly moved through Junior High, while receiving her therapy consultations and continuing her work with her speech and language, she transitioned into the big school down the street… Gardner High School. Quickly becoming the manager of the Lady Cats basketball team, Kelly’s laughter and smile carried that positive influence among all those she touched. In the Spring of 2002, Kelly was awarded a certificate of completion from GHS.

Over the next few years, Kelly would return to CAPS and GHS, continuing to inspire everywhere she went. Kelly would help as a paraprofessional in the classrooms of the Rainbow Program, encouraging the next generation of miracles to never let an opportunity pass you by. In March of 2007, Kelly passed away from an aneurysm that developed over time but left a legacy that will live on forever. 

CAPS Collaborative is honored and privileged to carry a small piece of Kelly’s memory amid a lifetime of triumph. Adored by her classmates and staff, Kelly embodied the reasons for Collaboratives being formed in the first place. During a ceremony in 2012 amongst family and friends, the Rainbow Program was renamed to the Kelly Day School.


“Time is something that cannot be bought; it cannot be wagered with and its not in endless supply. Time is simply how you life your life.”
– Craig Sager