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Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Paqui Kelly ready to kick off Football 101

By Matt Fortuna

What began with preparations in January will culminate Tuesday night on the Notre Dame campus with the third annual "Football 101," a chance for women 21 and older to learn the game's fundamentals and history from the Irish staff. Dinner from upscale restaurants and raffles round out the night.

The Kelly Cares Foundation, started by Brian and Paqui Kelly, presents the event, which drew close to 600 people last year.

"There's the enthusiasm from the staff, it's a local event and everyone gets to be together," Paqui Kelly said. "It's a joint effort and a family atmosphere with a lot of familiar faces."

Paqui Kelly, a two-time breast cancer survivor, laid the groundwork for what was then known as the Kelly Family Foundation in 2007. Two years later, the Kellys started what would become known as the Kelly Cares Foundation, a non-profit focused on breast cancer education, prevention and research.

Paqui Kelly held similar events when her husband was coaching at Cincinnati, though the cause has drawn a bigger audience with the Notre Dame platform, something that comes as no surprise to her.

"In some ways I'm not" surprised, Paqui Kelly said. "With the Notre Dame affiliation, the fan base, it's a very giving group. With all of the community service that everyone here does, it is an easy and natural fit for the fans."

She said she has been helping her husband Brian recover recently, as the Irish head coach underwent surgery Thursday for a herniated disk in his lower back. She expects him to check in throughout the night to see how the event is going, as he will be unable to participate.

The best moments for Paqui Kelly remind her how lucky she is, as they will often come during side conversations when she hears stories from women participating for their deceased sisters, mothers or aunts.

"Those stories really hit close to home for me," she said. "I realize how fortunate I am. Those are hard to hear, and they become part of my passion for this."