Dr. Kelly Sullivan
Feb 01, 2018 09:00AM
Photo by Tony Lewis Jr.
Just a few minutes away from the snarling traffic on Forest Drive lies a bucolic haven for those whose lives have been touched by cancer. Rolling fields and grazing horses surround a charming historic house coined Wellness House by its Founder and President Dr. Kelly Sullivan. An Annapolis-based plastic surgeon, Sullivan has conducted countless mastectomies and reconstructive surgeries. Since the surgeries are at least a year or two process, Sullivan really gets to know her patients, and learn their needs.
“So many of them had children and they were dealing with a lot of emotions trying to figure out how to talk with their kids,” Sullivan explains. “They were asking me for resources and I found shockingly little available for these women.”
Sullivan says that one day, a six-year-old asked her if her mom was going to die. She had other patients with similarly-aged children and wished she could bring them together.
Sullivan went to the Annapolis Rotary to see if there was something they could do. She envisioned a club house and the Rotary immediately offered their support. Local philanthropist Janet Richardson-Pearson got involved and generously donated the use of the farmhouse on Mas Que Farm Road. “Janet has two sons who had cancer,” Sullivan says. “She opened her doors to us and doesn’t charge us rent. She’s been incredibly supportive.”
Since it opened in 2009, more than 6,000 people have come through the doors of Wellness House looking for support and healing. The center has three full-time staff members, a very devoted working board of 13 people, and more than 200 volunteers. All of the services provided are free and include counseling, support groups, children’s programs, health and well-being programs, educational programs, and activities. Volunteers offer massages, reiki and healing touch therapy, and teach yoga.
Sullivan showed me around the house which includes two porches with inviting seating areas, a spacious and welcoming living room with multiple couches and chairs (which are well-used during scheduled tea times), and a kitchen. Upstairs, there are a couple of small rooms ideal for reiki and massage as well as a larger space for yoga, meditation, and support meetings.
“We look to support the whole family,” Sullivan shares. “There are support groups for patients and families and anyone who is touched by the cancer diagnosis.” Sullivan contends that one of the biggest benefits that grew out of Wellness House has been the camaraderie that those who visit share. “The specific type of cancer doesn’t matter because it’s all the same experience.”
Sullivan says she gets fulfillment from hearing people tell their stories about how Wellness House has helped. Just recently they received a donation from a member who hasn’t been to the house since 2011. The woman wrote a note saying that she hadn’t been there in six years but every year on the anniversary of her last treatment, she puts together a fundraiser for Wellness House because it made such a difference in her life.
Sullivan says, “It’s so good to see that it’s working and making such a difference in people’s lives.”
When Sullivan reflects on who influenced her, she looks to her parents. “Both of my parents were role models for inspiration,” she reflects. In addition to working, her dad was a Rotarian and her mother was active in the chamber of commerce.
With Sullivan’s practice expanding to the Eastern Shore, she doesn’t rule out another Wellness House. Her ultimate aim is to leave the world a little bit better than she found it through her own actions and those of her children and their children to come.