La Crosse, Wisconsin (WXOW) ----- Kelli Mades says "Never feel sorry for yourself. Always look beyond it."
Could you if you were Jefferson Award winner Kelli Mades?
"My step mom, I call her my step monster. She abused me very bad." And nearly starved her to death. "I couldn't remember anything. I couldn't remember my name so I had to go through a lot of psychologists. I also had tuberculosis and didn't even know it from being so malnourished."
Even though that was over 40 years ago, it's still what fuels Kelli's desire to keep it from happening to anyone else. "I just can't get over that there are over 3 thousand children in our region who reported being abused."
Kelli is on "The Child Abuse Prevention Task Force." Even though it may look like just a meeting, it's what has kept dozens of local families from falling apart. Kelli raised 2 kids as a single mom with very little and today she still has one mission. "I want my children to be proud of me, I always have. I want to make sure that they're proud of where I came from, what I've done and where I'm going."
Kelli runs a daycare. She puts in about 80 hours a week and says she wants other parents to have a safe option for their kids. And when she's not juggling kids, she's at the American Legion serving Veterans. "They give up so much for us and they don't ask for anything. Why not give it back to them?"
Kelli is also helping women returning from Afghanistan prepare for the workforce. And much to her dismay, a few weeks ago she heard there were homeless Veterans living on area streets so she organized a coat drive. "I never realized we had a homeless problem."
Kelli came from nothing but believes in giving everything because like Jefferson Award winners before her she knows there's healing through helping. "You give out one hour of your time and you get back two to three hours of nothing but pure enjoyment. It's a lot of fun. You get to help out people in your neighborhood and your community."