By KAITLYN NAPLES
Every spring, the Main Street Community Foundation hosts its annual Wonder of Women event, always with the goal in mind to inspire local women to consistently strive for success.
This annual event supports the foundation’s Women and Girls’ Fund, which has the mission of improving the quality of life for women and girls.
At its event last week, Grace Killelea spent the evening inspiring the crowd to “defy gravity” and overcome the obstacles that always seem to be out of reach.
Killelea has held top positions throughout her career, including vice president of Human Resources for Comcast Spotlight, a $2 billion division of Comcast; she founded and was president of Sterling Resource Group; and was senior vice president of Human Resources at Lifetime Television.
After 35 years, Killelea retired to focus on being a keynote speaker and consultant, and started the Half The Sky leadership program, which is geared toward women in leadership roles, professional roles, or women who are striving to enhance their role in their profession.
Killelea focused on sharing her personal stories of accomplishment, hoping to inspire women to “defy gravity,” which she defined as “anything that holds us down.”
“The one thing that holds us down is ourselves, ladies,” Killelea said to the room of about 400 guests last week at the Aqua Turf.
“Many of us live in a place where we focus on what we don’t have,” she said, adding that the voices in our head that tell us the negative things “are usually not right.”
She shared stories of her childhood, and her struggles with weight and how she eventually was able to do something she always wanted to do. Sky dive.
“Given the right opportunity and tools, women are capable of anything,” she said. “We don’t celebrate our own success.”
While she was struggling with losing weight, she said she woke up one morning and said inside she knew “that this isn’t the life I want to live.”
She started walking, which was sparked by her desire to walk for her friend who was diagnosed with cancer, and she eventually started to lose weight. She said she had never been in an athletic store when she bought a pair of sneakers and was “clueless” about how to start to exercise.
When she started Half The Sky, she said it came from her goal to get the message out that “women hold up half the sky.”
Killelea asked the crowd if they knew the names of the three flight attendants aboard the flight that Captain Sully Sullenberger was flying when it landed in the Hudson River a few years ago. Nobody knew, and Killelea said that they had the important task of helping the passengers remain calm, while only hearing three words from the cockpit—“brace for impact.”
“How do we celebrate women without diminishing men,” Killelea asked the audience. She said just because one celebrates women’s accomplishments, doesn’t mean one is reducing the importance of the accomplishments of men; one is just making them equal.
She reminded the audience that they “have the souls of warriors; you have the ability to do anything,” and at the end of her talk, she had everyone in the audience stand up with their arms in the air and everyone shouted, “Here goes something.”
Killelea was the perfect choice to be this year’s guest speaker, because “she truly embodies the mission of the fund which is to improve the quality of life for all women and girls in the communities we serve,” said this year’s Wonder of Women event chairs, E.J. Conlin and Sandi Perrillo, in a statement.
The Main Street Community Foundation serves Bristol, Burlington, Plainville, Plymouth, Southington, and Wolcott. For more information, visit www.mainstreetfoundation.org. For more information on Grace Killelea, and Half The Sky, visit www.halftheskyleadership. com.
By KAITLYN NAPLES