By Sue Botos
As the Beatles said, “All you need is love.” Kasey Crawford Kellem couldn’t agree more. In fact, the local school counselor and children’s author titled one of her books “Love.”
“Children need to understand that love is something so tangible that it can be felt and experienced by others and exists within the context of relationships,” she noted at the end of the book. However, when her husband Craig was diagnosed with cancer, she decided to make the power of love even more visible through the creation of “love mobs.”
The idea came to Kellem after her husband Craig was found to have terminal prostate cancer in November 2012. A friend, owner of the Tradesman Tavern in Parma, suggested having a big group of family and friends “mob” Craig with good wishes one day in January. “I shot out an e-mail saying, ‘Let’s have everyone show up outside of the Tradesman,’” recalled Kellem, unsure of the results.
Two days later, the Kellems were having dinner with another couple at the Tradesman. “He (Craig) was pretty sick, and this was our first time out (since he was diagnosed),” said Kellem. Then, at 7 p.m., Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” blasted over the sound system. “In walked 65 people,” said Kellem, adding that the group formed a type of “receiving line,” filing past their table giving hugs and encouragement.
Since the experience raised her husband’s spirits so much, Kellem wanted to keep the love flowing. Then friend and fellow Magnificat graduate Brigid Burzanko was diagnosed with cancer. Kellem said she, her sister and another Magnificat classmate, Rocky River Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Liz Manning, brainstormed about doing what she called a “Craig mob” for Brigid.
“It’s so simple, and it helped my husband rebound incredibly. All it was was their time and their love,” said Kellem, who changed the name to “love mob.”
The three women then put the pieces in place for their fellow “mobsters.” Kellem’s sister Judy made a CD of inspirational songs, Kellem offered her “Love” book and Manning contributed a large heart pillow. They also made a fleece blanket for the “mobsters” to sign.
“This kind of became the format for the love mobs,” said Kellem, along with the song “Don’t Stop Believing.”
About 100 people showed up for Burzanko’s “mob,” which was held at the Westlake Panini’s in February, and Burzanko was caught completely unaware. “I was overwhelmed. I had no clue what was going on. I felt so blessed,” said Burzanko in a phone interview.
“The best part was, my husband and I were sitting there having lunch, and people kept coming in and coming in. It was like a receiving line,” she said.
Burzanko, who said she had just completed her sixth round of chemotherapy and is doing well, recalled the experience was a huge help to her. “I can’t wait to do this for someone else,” she added.
Kellem said that she has done two other mobs, one for a co-worker’s 6-year-old, who is battling brain cancer, and one for a former student who lost her arm due to sarcoma.
“It costs nothing. It’s not a fundraiser. I’m not asking for anything but your time and love. It’s something so simple, and yet it has made such a difference to the people who have been mobbed,” said Kellem, adding that often, people get attention and care when first diagnosed, but the support sometimes wanes. “You have to keep that up,” she said.
But one day, the “mobber” became the “mobbed.” Kellem said that on Palm Sunday, family and friends mobbed her and her husband during services at the Old Stone Church. “I did not know about it and I spent most of the service crying. It was just overwhelming that people would come to the service and greet us with love. (It) was just amazing.”
After supporting others for many years, Kellem said that being on the receiving end was initially difficult for her husband. “But the love mob pushed him. He was doped up and bedridden, but he started getting out,” Kellem reported, adding that today he “looks phenomenal,” even going to work when he can. She said he continues to improve even after doctors from “both large hospitals in town” said there was nothing they could do. (Kellem has been keeping a record of their journey at www.mindovermatterbooks.blogspot.com.)
Kellem says she envisions a whole troop of “love mobsters.”
“All it takes is time, people and a place,” she said.
SIDEBAR: Kasey Kellem and “Team Believe” will be participating in the 13th annual Race for the Place on June 2 at Beachwood Place. Proceeds benefit The Gathering Place, with locations in Westlake and Beachwood, which offers resources and support to those touched by cancer. To register, or for more information, go to www.racefor theplace.org, or call The Gathering Place at 216-595-9546.