By Isabel Lawrence NBC15 Anchor | Photographed By Valerie Tobias
“That kid. He continues to surprise me.” Like any parent, Kristin Kellerman is proud of her son, Will. She loves the way he inspires others to persevere and live life with passion—even after he’s gone.
Will died in a rollover crash in November 2017, after heading home from playing a game for the Milwaukee Area Technical College Stormers. It was the best basketball game that Kellerman says she’d ever seen him play.
“I was just thinking the unthinkable of writing your kid’s obituary,” says Kellerman, of Verona. “I kept thinking, I don’t want any stupid flowers, because those die too. So let’s just start a foundation or a scholarship.”
That’s how Opportunity 34 Foundation was born. The foundation, which takes its name from Will’s basketball jersey number, raises money for scholarships for students going to college. Basketball was Will’s passion. Students need to have played at least one year of basketball in high school and have overcome a challenge.
“Let’s make this championing the underdog,” Kellerman says of her thoughts when the organization was founded.
She says Will always saw the potential in others and encouraged them to stay focused.
Will’s legacy drives Bre Woods. Woods is a Verona Area High School graduate who’s attending Madison College and is a recent recipient of an Opportunity 34 scholarship.
“I would never want to let them down because they built this legacy based on someone that was special to them,” Woods says. “You have no choice but to kind of give it your all, because then it’s not really fair to them.”
Woods has dreams of being a forensic pathologist. Dreams she says are made easier by two years of financial support totaling $5,000 from the foundation.
Kellerman says the organization has raised about $250,000 in two years and has awarded nine scholarships and donations to other organizations. Now, they’re working to offer scholarships for additional years of college and create a team of mentors.
Also ahead is the foundation’s annual 3-on-3 basketball tournament fundraiser Nov. 1-2 at the Stoughton Wellness and Athletic Center, held just days before the anniversary of Will’s death.
While Will may be gone, Opportunity 34 ensures his legacy lives on.
“Now that we’re coming out of this fog of grief a little bit, I feel like there’s a dream that’s starting to be born,” Kellerman says.