Kelly family, 600 participants have reason to celebrate Football 101

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — It was suggested to Brian Kelly Tuesday that the Football 101 charity event that is so cherished by him and wife Paqui might, in a twisted sort of way, become a breeding ground for future second-guessers of his coaching acumen.

And the sixth-year Notre Dame head football coach can live with that, because the upside of the popular how-to event has been that transformational for the couple’s Kelly Cares Foundation.

A day after the organization took in $300,000 from its Kelly Cares Invitational golf tournament at Lost Dunes Golf Club in Bridgman, it hosted more than 600 women for Football 101 at Notre Dame, with interaction with current Irish players and coaches.

“We started with 300 (participants),” Kelly said of the first Football 101 in 2010. “(It’s brought in) $500,000 over the last five years and gone right back into breast cancer research. That’s pretty exciting stuff.”

Paqui Kelly is a two-time breast cancer survivor and the inspiration for the foundation, though its reach is not limited to breast cancer awareness and research. But at this event, it’s front and center.

And that means the football drills and lessons are only part of the allure for some.

“A lot of the ladies that are here have been touched with breast cancer (themselves) or in their family,” Brian Kelly said. “For them, it’s a time to come back together and celebrate the moment that we kicked it or somebody found out about the diagnosis and fought through it.

“In a way, it’s a reunion to come back and share stories and bond a little bit. And we’ve been able to wrap it around such a great event. Football, obviously, provides that opportunity here at Notre Dame.”

Irish Stew has videos, photos and tweets from Football 101 here.

Paqui Kelly talks as Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly looks on during the Kelly Cares Foundation's Football 101 charity event, Tuesday at Notre Dame. ( Photo/Joe Raymond)