Parent carry on daughter's legacy with Kelli's Kloset - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Parents carry on daughter's legacy with Kelli's Kloset

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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) -

The long, brick office building located at 4560 North Boulevard has seen better days.  The parking lot has pot holes and the windows need cleaning.  Inside one of the spaces, clothing racks stand empty, tables wait to be put to use, and a few dozen garbage bags of clothes sit in the corner.  However, this space is about to get a new life given by one who has already passed. 

"It's just amazing. I know she's just dancing in heaven, going man, all this for me?" said Patsy Richmond.

The office will be the site of Kelli's Kloset, a place where female cancer patients can come to find new clothes and all for free.

"Women who go through chemotherapy lose a lot of weight and some gain weight. So your clothes that you're normally wearing do not fit," explained Cancer Survivor and Volunteer Jennette Montgomery.

Kelli's Kloset is the brainchild of Kelli Richmond.  When Kelli was 28 she began suffering from subtle, but troubling symptoms including severe back pain, bloating, and irregular pap smears.  After nine months of questions, an ultra sound finally discovered what doctor's believed was an ovarian cyst.  Surgery revealed the worst.

"She looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, I don't have cancer do I?' I said, ‘Yes baby, you have cancer,'" said Kelli's Father Ron Richmond.

Kelli was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer.  Over the next two and a half years, she would undergo surgery and various chemotherapy treatments.  Her parents, Patsy and Ron, said she never lost her spirit or desire to help others.  It was during one of her chemo treatments that the idea for Kelli's Kloset was born.   

Kelli spotted a woman next to her who had lost a good deal of weight and had pinned her too-big skirt up with pins.

"Kelli looked at her mother and said, ‘We're so lucky. We can afford new clothes while I'm gaining weight and losing weight,'" said Ron.

That's when Kelli told her parents that when she recovered she wanted to start a closet where women undergoing treatment could find new, properly fitted clothing for free. 

However, the young woman would not live to see her dream realized.  She lost her battle with cancer in May 2012.  In their grief, Kelli's parents carried on her legacy. 

"When you lose your only child and you go through what we did some people just kind of box themselves up," said Ron.  "I felt like she passed her torch to me."

Ron and Patsy founded the Kelli Leigh Richmond Ovarian Cancer Foundation with the help of donations from family and friends.  They started by giving out birthday wishes to ovarian cancer patients: $1,000 to celebrate one more year of life. 

Now, they are ready to open up the closet that Kelli dreamed of.

"It keeps growing and growing. Everything we do something better happens," said Patsy.

The office space and clothing racks were donated by HAART. Clothes are coming in from everywhere, although donations of women's clothing and volunteers are still needed.

The Richmonds hope to open in June. They have contacted local hospitals and oncology groups to let patients know about this resource.  For a few days each week, female patients will be able to come in with a doctor's note and pick up clothes based on need. 

While a new outfit may seem like the last item of need for a cancer patient, Montgomery says small comforts in times of traumatic change are everything.

"It helps your attitude to get through it," said Montgomery.

As for the Richmonds, the bare walls and empty racks will soon be full of new life and new hope for those who need it most.

If you are interested in donating, volunteering or would like more information on the Kloset and the Foundation, go to http://kelliscloset.org/.

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