Log Home News: Charity Cabin Built
Family Builds Log Cabin to Help Cancer Patients Cope
Industry, ME: The woods and water gave 12-year-old Daniel Kelly respite from his virulent cancer and its treatment while he was alive.
Now, four years after his death, Daniel’s parents, Leslie and Dana, of Westbrook, are sharing their little piece of heaven with other families who may need to recoup their strength or quietly grieve. The land is on Clearwater Road, just a short walk from Clearwater Lake in Industry.
"We often traveled with the kids to land we own just outside Farmington and talked about someday building a rustic cabin where we could rest and relax when Daniel felt better," said Leslie Kelly. "He helped us pick a site for a cabin and went swimming in the lake. It was fun to dream about someday…"
After Daniel’s death, the thought of moving forward with plans to build a small camp or even returning to the land without him was too emotionally difficult to consider. "We couldn’t imagine spending time there without him," Leslie Kelly said.
But the grieving process and the support the family received through the Maine Children’s Cancer Program in Scarborough, a program of Maine Medical Center, brought them back to the land with a mission.
"Later that winter after Daniel died, we received an insurance check and were baffled as to what to do with it," she said. "We thought how nice it would have been to have the cabin to enjoy with Daniel between hospital stays. We even thought how good it would have been to have a place where we could get away after he died."
The Kellys, with seven adopted and foster children between the ages of six and adult, all agreed to build the cabin and make it available to others who have a child with cancer or who may have lost a child to cancer.
"In this way, we can fulfill our dream of a cabin and maybe give someone else the moment of respite we wanted to give Daniel," Leslie Kelly said.
Over the next three years, the Kellys and over 100 volunteers spent hours putting up a modified log cabin kit.
Dana Kelly’s employer, Applicators Sales & Service, a roofing and window company, donated all the windows and Ideal Roofing, of Ottawa, donated the metal roof. The electrical, tile and plumbing work was also donated.
In July, the Stronghold officially opened. The camp is accessible to people in wheelchairs. It can sleep 11 with assorted bunk beds and daybeds. It was furnished on a low budget but is fully equipped with donated kitchen appliances, cabinets bought on EBay, dishes and tableware. Each room is decorated with a whimsical theme and there is handcrafted pine furniture throughout, made by a retired craftsman from Aroostook County.
Linens are supplied and each bed is covered with colorful handmade quilts. Visitors are told not to worry about cleaning up and to just leave dirty linen in a laundry basket. The Kellys take care of everything else. "We want this to be as user-friendly as possible," LeslieKelly said. "Everything people need is there.
We just ask them to bring in their own food and water."
"We are making the cabin available for free to the Maine Children’s Cancer Program for their patients and families," she said. "Most, if not all, children in the state of Maine diagnosed with cancer would be referred to this specialty group. The cancer program can offer the cabin to a patient’s family, the parents of a patient who might be able to have a brief respite or a bereaved family. "
The Maine Elks Association has taken a special interest in the Kelly’s project since the group has adopted the Children’s Cancer Program. Elks from Rumford to Augusta have stepped up to volunteer at the Stronghold, helping with everything from electrical work and plumbing to making quilts.
The Mt. Blue High School football team has also taken the Stronghold on as a community service project. Melissa LeTarte of New Sharon, a member of the Augusta Elks whose son Mike is on the Mt. Blue varsity team, said over 30 varsity and junior varsity players, their coaches and parents recently spent an entire Saturday cleaning up the rear of property.
"This used to be a farm, and the boys hauled out rolls of rusty barbed wire, an old axle from a car, glass and lots of junk. We’ll be coming back to haul it all away and the kids intend to come back twice a year to do cleanup," LeTarte said.
"Many of them have family members or know someone with cancer, so this project is hitting home," she said.
A special place is along the cleared path to the stream where a stone wall and sitting area with a granite bench was designed and landscaped by a Westbrook area contractor. Guests are invited to paint a message on a rock and to admire a colorful, handcrafted wooden "spirit dwelling" created by Allison Beck of Portland.
"She began creating these beautiful pieces of art after the death of her young son and there are secret compartments in the castle where people can leave private messages," Leslie Kelly said.