This mother-son duo makes giving back to their community a family affair
“Life is too short to not bring as much happiness into this world as possible,” said Donna Kelly, owner of Ocean City’s Oh Sea Thrift. “Every day is an opportunity to do something nice for someone.”
This mantra for Donna is not only one with great importance, using it as the blueprint of her own life, but one her children find extremely valuable as well. Following the pandemic and unable to stay as involved in the Ocean City community, she was inspired to build something of meaning and provide relief to the less fortunate.
That’s when Oh Sea Thrift was born. Oh Sea Thrift sits on Central Avenue and is home to gently-loved items from clothes to housewares. All proceeds go to the Humane Society of Ocean City.
“My main focus has always been volunteering,” said Donna. “I recently turned 60 and ever since I can remember, helping others was my priority, whether that be with the Second Chance Foundation, Humane Society of OC, or additional cancer and handicap facilities. With years of knowledge on each of these foundations, I knew I wanted Oh Sea Thrift to provide funding to the animals.”
Donna’s love for any and all animals is demonstrated through her efforts to evolve her business into something unique and favorable for everyone.
“From furniture, dog collars, pots and pans, clothes, and more, we have everything one can think of,” said Donna. “The store really is a one-stop shop.”
With no prior experience owning or successfully running a business, Donna remained committed; as the cause was always her inspiration.
“I love animals and I want educate the world on not only how amazing they are, but also how to protect them, whether that be through dog adoption, turtle awareness, or milkweed conservation for the butterflies,” said Donna. “I am extremely fortunate to be in a position where I can help the organization, and I will continue to do so for as long as I can.”
Giving back to her community has been a love of Donna’s, and she raised her sons with the intent to have them help others. Donna’s sons Chris and Rob spent a majority of their summers in Ocean City. Surfing became a driving force in their lives and they enrolled in OCHS, never again living too far from the waves.
Since then, Chris has become a paramedic in Hawaii, where he demonstrates this intention of helping others daily.
As for 32-year-old Rob, he’s traveled far and wide as a professional surfer, but always find his way back home to Ocean City.
Following this year’s Polar Bear Plunge, Rob challenged himself to catch a wave every single day for the rest of the winter, recording and streaming the daily adventures on his social media. Overtime, his following began to expand, and what started as a personal journey soon transcended into an opportunity to do what he loves most; pay it forward.
“After being a participant in the Polar Bear Plunge for the majority of my life, I already knew about the physical health benefits and was not a stranger to the cold water, so I thought why not,” said Rob. “To my surprise, my videos started to gain a lot of attention and it began to take on a life of its own. Suddenly, people were reaching out and wanting to get behind it with sponsorships and donations.”
Although unexpected, the commotion around Rob’s social media platforms allowed him to donate to a variety of charities.
“I wanted to help as many organizations as possible, so most of my donations went out to local charities such as the Special Olympics and other environmental and mental health foundations,” said Rob.
Outside of this experience, Rob has had the opportunity to travel the world and spread his love of surfing.
“Several years ago I had the privilege of visiting Nicaragua, not only to surf waves, but also to learn more about the community. It was eye-opening to see a completely different form of life. During my first trip, I gave a kid his own surfboard and introduced him to the sport. Around five or six years later, I traveled back to Nicaragua, where that same kid was now an incredible surfer with sponsors,” said Rob. “Moments like those are what make me feel so fortunate to be doing what I love most while also making a difference in others’ lives. A big reason why I can continue down this career path is credited to my parents and people in my life who support me, and I never want to let that go to waste.”
Although many kind words would be fitting for the Kelly Family, the idea of altruism has always been and continues to be the most prominent theme of their lives.
“My parents have always led by example,” said Rob. “They are the most giving and selfless people I have ever known, and although I never remember them telling us to follow in their footsteps, their compassion for others developed my brother and I into who we are today.”
From pro surfing to owning a new business, Donna and Rob find themselves in different fields, but still hold the same values no matter where work takes them.
“My family and I are so blessed,” said Donna. “So why not bless other people? We are lucky enough to have found our passions and serve the public while doing what we love.”
Find this and more in the August issue of Ocean City Magazine