Woman left life earnings to charity

Lynn Kennelly
Lynn Kennelly

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, Lynn Kennelly and a group of her friends helped form a team for the Susan G. Komen for the Cure 5K event in Charlotte.

An avid runner who competed in the event every year, winning her age group at least once, Kennelly took to walking in the event after the disease returned in 2006, metastasizing as bone cancer.

And last summer, when the cancer ravaged most of her body, Kennelly turned to Abigail H. Kerr, a friend, fellow breast-cancer survivor and Komen teammate, to help her create an estate plan.

When Kerr told Kennelly her retirement plans had accumulated substantial assets, Kennelly replied she wanted to “give a bunch to charity,” Kerr says.

Kennelly, who was vice president for sales channel and consulting for Hill-Rom, died last Sept. 21 at age 50, leaving a total of $260,000 to five local charities she designated in her estate plan.

“Lynn gave away everything that she had earned,” says Kerr.

With her other assets, she set up a trust for her elderly parents, and provided bequests to benefit other individuals and her pets.

A graduate of R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kennelly had no other immediate family but a wide circle of friends, Kerr says.

Every Saturday, she attended yoga practice with Kirsten Sikkelee, a long-time personal friend and Komen team member who is CEO of YWCA Central Carolinas.

Sikkelee, who created and for 12 years directed the YWCA’s Women in Transition program, Charlotte’s main transitional housing program for homeless women, says Kennelly attended events for the program and supported it.

Hanging in Kennelly’s home was a painting she had purchased by a young Nigerian woman who painted it for an art class that was part of the program.

The painting now hangs in Sikkelee’s office.

“Lynn had a huge heart and great courage, and she shared that very selflessly with everyone,” Sikkelee says. “Everyone who was friends with her felt they were probably one of her closest friends.”

Kennelly’s estate plan left Women in Transition $65,000, which the YWCA put in an endowment to support the program. It also named the exercise studio in its fitness center for her.

Other bequests included $65,000 to Komen Charlotte, $52,000 to the Charlotte Gay and Lesbian Fund at Foundation for the Carolinas, $52,000 to the Greater Carolinas Chapter of the American Red Cross, and $26,000 to the Humane Society of Charlotte.

The bequest to Komen Charlotte was included in the total of roughly $100,000 that Kennelly’s team generated last year.

That team, known as “Circle Up,” had grown to over 300 members over the years, including many of Kennelly’s friends from Charlotte’s lesbian community.

In the last 10 years, Circle Up, a name that refers to circling up to help friends, raised over $300,000 for breast-cancer research.

“There are ways for everyone to leave a legacy,” Kerr says.

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