giving back


November 16th, 2016

It is hard to believe that we are actually celebrating our 5th year with Live Thankfully. What started with just a few Thanksgiving turkeys has grown into a movement across our city.  I am constantly asked how Live Thankfully came to be and what our vision is when it comes to LT in the future.  Honestly, when I reflect over the past 5 years, I don’t know how we got here or how in the world LT continues to keep growing with such momentum.  I just know that God continues to bless our efforts, cover our many mistakes, and graciously bring us folks to guide us and serve alongside us.

John often refers to Live Thankfully as our "accidental nonprofit" (or my very expensive hobby). Never in a million years did I think we would have started and been running a  charitable organization.  Don’t let this blog or social media posts fool you. The nonprofit world falls way short of glamorous. Startup nonprofits require a ton of work, cause a significant amount of stress, cost a lot of money, and are never ending. Yet our reasons for continuing to press on are anything but accidental – they are completely intentional.

You see, Live Thankfully is not just about serving meals, we are about preparing young hearts for service.  (Turkeys and cans are simply the conduits!)

What began as a way of marketing Kelley Orthodontics has turned into a four-part service project involving the entire community.  In the past, before LT, Kelley Orthodontics gave turkeys to John’s referring dentists around the holidays. In 2012, we decided to redirect our efforts and reach out to families in our neighboring schools who were struggling to put a Thanksgiving meal on the table.   That year, with the support of our dental community, we gave 60 meals to families in need.  Five years later, we are giving approximately 600 meals to families adopted through 20+ Fort Worth schools, Gill Children Services (an organization John faithfully serves with professionally), and 2 local churches.

Leadership training takes place in all of our Live Thankfully schools throughout the academic year. The process begins with education and changing the way kids think about service and giving.  LT volunteers spend numerous hours in our partnering schools, mentoring student leaders, and teaching them how to conduct successful food drives.  We teach kids that they have the power to create positive change in their communities.

Not every child can be a superstar academically, but every child can serve.  The evidence of a good leader is service.

Food drives are conducted the month of November in our partnering schools and business offices. LT volunteers pick up these heavy boxes of food weekly, transfer them to our storage unit where students of that campus organize them for our packaging party.  Our food drives collect enough food to fill 2500 bags of groceries and donate another 5000 plus food items to local area food banks.

Packaging Party: Live Thankfully hosts a party in which volunteers from the community come together to package the groceries collected from our LT local food drives. This party takes place on the Sunday evening prior to Thanksgiving.

I am constantly blown away by who shows up to sort and bag the food.  There is no discrimination of age, religion, socioeconomics, physical abilities, or race.  This, to me, is the most beautiful part of Live Thankfully. A person simply volunteering their time may be serving next to another who is actually receiving a meal. Since those receiving meals serve alongside those who give, students recognize the needs around them, compassion increases, relationships strengthen, and our community solidifies.

Thanksgiving Dinner Distribution: Thanksgiving dinners, purchased through Live Thankfully, are given to families selected by our partnering schools’ counselors. Each family receives a full meal along with 2 bags of groceries from our packaging party.  These families are chosen based on financial, emotional, and physical needs.  Our counselors are diligent to follow up with these families throughout the school year.  We offer resources and collaborate with other nonprofits to help these families get back on their feet.

Every participating school has teachers and administrators present to give the meals to their adopted families.  We desire to tears down walls of distrust and builds bridges of trust between those in need and those who are able to help.  This starts in the micro-communities of the schools with the teachers, administrators, and fellow students meeting the needs of their own school families.

So what do I envision for the future? I truly am open to anything.  We simply pray that the Lord will organically grow Live Thankfully as He desires: that He would bring the financial support, the manpower, the resources we need to continue being the hands and feet of service in our local schools and community.

We are considering saying “yes” to more schools next year. And saying, “yes” to having more than one site for our packaging party and meal pick-up.  This would allow others in the community to realistically join us in service, thus maintaining dignity and pride in those we bless with meals.

I have a vision of providing some type of paid stipend or job for the single moms who receive our meals (a sort of income generating activity).

We provide a smaller scale leadership opportunity on our school campuses during the spring called Created for Compassion. But I would love to see LT offer another large community involved service project in late May or early summer.

I envision a Live Thankfully summer day camp. Young leaders, both kids “of plenty” and kids at risk for failing or dropping out of school, would come together for a week or two. We would pour into them and challenge them in areas of service. They would problem solve and work together for the betterment of their schools and community.

So, I am a visionary. (It’s amazing what you learn about yourself when you take on something new.) I have been so blessed to find and hire an incredible Executive Director who comes alongside me, keeps me on track, makes sure we are staying within our mission, and doing what we were called to do WELL, before moving forward.

I have no idea where Live Thankfully will be tomorrow. I just know that I have fallen completely in love with the teachers, administrators, and kids of our public schools. I see the chains they wear because of governmental red tape and ridiculous testing requirements. I see children who have so much potential, so much character, so much to offer our society, being crushed in spirit because they don't fit into a box.  Live Thankfully gives our schools a diffent kind of box - one that is moldable and pliable. The schools can change and manipulate it based on the needs of their students and the conditions of their individual schools.

I have been told numerous times by our teachers that they have witnessed transformation in the students that are actively involved with LT.  For some, Live Thankfully is the only place they feel successful in school. Through Live Thankfully, they experience the joy of hands on learning and the excitement of discovery. They  come to believe that they are so much more than a test score, and that academics don't always get in the way of a good education. These kids are coming alive and so are their campuses during Live Thankfully season!

So this is what keeps me going. This is why we can’t stop, why we can’t throw in the towel when I desperately (at times) want to go back to simply giving turkeys to dentists. Running a fulltime nonprofit is HARD.  It is HARD HARD HARD.  But  nothing worth fighting for doesn’t come with difficulties, with trials, with sweat and tears. Right? These kids are worth fighting for, our schools are worth fighting for, and our community is indeed worth fighting for. Spend just a few hours in our Fort Worth schools, look past the system and see the faces.  You too will be hooked!

In one sentence: Live Thankfully is a life style. Won’t you live thankfully too?

(click image below for 5 year annivesary video)

Guest blogger: Alison Kelley (aka: Dr. Kelley's bride) pictured below with Executive Director, Sarah Nader

Live Thankfully

October 31st, 2015

People often ask me what is Live Thankfully? How did you come up with this nonprofit and what are your plans for it? Honestly, all I can say is, "I really don't know how we got here.  Alison and I had a dream, we prayed about it, and it exploded in a way that we could never have imagined."  I wanted to see the smiles of Kelley Orthodontics reach deep into the hearts of our Fort Worth community.  I wanted to give my patients something of substance to smile about.  We never set out to start a nonprofit. Trust me there are many times I feel overwhelmed by all it entails. Nonprofits take a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of emotional sweat and tears. But in the end, our hearts beat hard for the mission of Live Thankfully, the Lord re-energizes us, and we just keep going.

We love kids, we love our community, we love people (all people), and we love seeing a diversity of folks come together for a greater cause.

Live Thankfully: Extending our Smiles to the Hearts and Stomachs of our Community! LT is not another turkey handout nor another can food drive. We are about empowering the next generation to be life long givers of their communities.  It is our goal to tear down walls and build bridges of trust between families in need and those in our community who can help them. Live Thankfully is a life style, it is a way of living that brings dignity and pride to our families in need and establishes a lifestyle of service in our future leaders.

What started four years ago as 60 turkeys to give to families in need, has turned into a three week long service project.  This year, we will give approximately 600 turkey dinners and groceries away to families in need. These families are adopted and selected by school administrators of the 22 schools that are partnering with us. We also come alongside Welcome Back Tarrant County and Christ Chapel Bible Church and supply groceries to the families they purchase turkey dinners for.

In order for a school to have families adopted through Live Thankfully, they must participate in the entire LT process. We go into these schools and encourage, educate and commission these students to be life long givers of their community. We explain that through Live Thankfully, families receiving meals actually have the opportunity to work alongside and give back to their community. We give the schools all the tools they need to have a successful food drive and allow them the creativity to run it themselves. I am blown away by how well these students plan, trouble shoot, encourage their student body, and orchestrate the drives in their schools. The teachers and staff fully support it as well. One teacher commented just last week that the families who receive meals, tend to really give and get behind the can food drive.

Our LT schools also invite and encourage their students to attend LT's Party with a Purpose.  Some schools even bus their students in to serve.  After can goods are collected for three weeks, we throw a HUGE party where volunteers sort and bag all these groceries. Last year we filled over 2000 bags in less than 30 minutes! There is nothing more beautiful than seeing families chosen to receive a meal, working so hard alongside volunteers. Service and love are universal languages that need no translation. Dignity and pride are maintained when those in need have the opportunity to buy into what they are being given.

Our LT schools also commit to have school representation pass out the turkey dinners and groceries to their adopted families. Every one of our LT partnering schools will have teachers, counselors, or principals present to pass out meals. This strengthens the bond of trust between those who are in need and their school leaders. Our schools use the rest of the academic year to point these families in the direction they need to receive permanent help.

One thing I tell students when speaking to them is, "change happens when we invest in people." Live Thankfully is about relationships. Turkeys are simply the conduit into the schools. Educating, encouraging, commissioning, investing and following up with people takes a lot of time, money and emotional energy. But it is so worth it! Alison and I have fallen completely in love with our Fort Worth schools, public and private. We have been humbled by the outpour of support from our business and dental community.  These businesses have not only given of their finances but have volunteered their time and expertise to make LT happen.

Live Thankfully is not just a Kelley Orthodontic thing. It is much bigger than anything we could ever make happen. We utilize hundreds of volunteers and ask for financial donations and sponsorships. We NEED volunteers and financial gifts. We invite you to join us.

Live Thankfully is changing our community one student, one family, one school at a time! Won't you consider LIVING THANKFULLY with us?

(to volunteer, make a financial donation, buy a t-shirt & to learn more visit

A Few of Our Smiles

What our Patients are Saying

"John Kelley has partnered with us in transforming the H.O.P.E. Farm Boys into men. Kelley Orthodontics has the ability to help our boys develop confidence in their appearances and more importantly their characters. The Kelley Orthodontics team has been an irreplaceable instrument in the success of our program. John Kelley and the Crew… you are the best! "

"Professionalism and efficiency usually don't mix well with warm hospitality, but somehow at Dr. Kelley's office you find it blended comfortably together at every visit. Dr. Kelley not only takes his work seriously but also his relationship with you, the patient. You will not find a more friendly, helpful staff anywhere. "

"When I first found out I was getting braces, I got kind of worried, but Dr. Kelley explained everything to me step by step and made sure I knew how to treat minor pokes or pains in my teeth. They also provided me with toothbrushes and floss just for braces and taught me how to use them. The staff is really friendly and they're really good at accommodating me to where I don't miss anything big at school. Kelley Orthodontist has done a great job helping me with my braces! "

"I personally like it when I go to the orthodontist. When all the other kids at school say, 'I have to go to the orthodontist today,' the usual responses are, 'Hope you come back alive!' or 'That stinks!' But my response is, 'Who do you have?' The reason all the kids hate orthodontics is because they don't have Dr.Kelley! The staff is amazing, they don't put pointy things into your mouth, and they make the appointments quick and fast. Thank you Dr. Kelley for making a place that makes my mouth good as new!"

"We have been so grateful for Dr. Kelley's orthodontic care of our children. His kindness in dealing with our family, thorough medical expertise, and friendly office staff have made this office feel like a second family. Three of our children have been through orthodontics with Dr. Kelley, and not only are their smiles fabulous, but they even enjoy going to the office for visits. We have full confidence in Dr. Kelley's treatment of our children's individual orthodontic needs, and for one of our children in particular have seen significant progress that will likely keep him from surgery down the road. Because orthodontics requires frequent visits and check ups, we are all the more thankful for such a fantastic orthodontist and office staff to spend time with."

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