Kelly Collazo Camirand mists up a bit thinking back on the past 20 years.
“It’s all flashed by so quickly, especially the last two or three,” she said,
recalling the routines and scheduling, shopping and prepping, doctor’s appointments, emergency room visits, girlfriends, field trips, tutors and classrooms that any working parent can identify with.
When Kelly’s only child Joaquin, a handsome young man with ginger-colored hair, broad shoulders and a “chill” disposition headed off to college two years ago, Kelly said she really wasn’t prepared.
“I’m not joking, I never even thought about it. After he graduated from Melbourne Central Catholic, we had two weeks before he headed up Tusculum University (in Tennessee),” she said. Joaquin, former left-handed quarterback at the school, was recruited on a full scholarship and began his first year as a red-shirt freshman.
The first few months were the worst, she recalled, with the two family pups heading to Joaquin’s room each morning to look for him. Many friends, close and not so close ones, would call to check on her – concerned for how she was coping with her only son being out of the house. Kelly said the home she had shared with her son and his stepdad Eric felt too large and had too many memories, so they sold their beachside residence to relocate inland.
In the beginning, Kelly said she was traveling every chance she could to see Joaquin in Tennessee, whether to cheer at the football games or just squeeze in some precious moments with her boy.
After cycling into a new normal, though, she recalls thinking ‘What’s next for me?’
Like many parents with kids heading off to college or other adventures after high school, Kelly was in the throes of empty nest syndrome. It’s a common occurrence among parents, and though not a clinical diagnosis, can lead to anxiety, loss of purpose and stress. Finding a path forward, many parents head back to the work force or reinvent themselves, personally, or professionally.
For Kelly, that meant taking stock of where she was and what she wanted. After scaling back from successful stints in marketing, radio and PR to take part in the last few years of her son’s life at home, Kelly has slowly and thoughtfully started to accept new clients into her business, Executive & Healthcare Promotions, which she launched when Joaquin was much younger.
“I’d work from morning until school release, pick him up from school, be a mom from 2-9 pm (or later as he grew), and then jump onto the computer while he slept to do paperwork or write or follow up with clients by email,” she said.
Now, in between daily texts to her son and visits up to see him, Kelly works with clients such as physicians groups and financial planners – and credits helping successfully launch Katie Jacobus’ campaign for Judge of the 18th District Court.
She’s also examining reentry into radio, hoping to build back up the successful audience she had grown doing live prep sports announcing for ESPN for five years on 95.9FM, as well as looking to launch podcasts and writing projects.
“I’m comfortable with how things are going for Joaquin (often also referred to as “The Dream” by Kelly and close friends and family), noting that he was the best – the very best project – she’s ever taken on.
She knows her work is not done yet, but for now, she’s content to stand by (or “sidebar,” as she jokingly calls it), at the ready for when he needs her next.
Shawna Lucas (formerly Kelsch) has lived and worked in Brevard county for the past 20 years, serving in a variety of jobs and community service roles. She’s a former food and news reporter for Florida today, and was owner/operator of a marketing company that assisted clients and partners such as the Florida Healthcare Coalition, Blue Cross & Blue Shield Foundation for Florida, The Brevard Health Alliance, and Florida Tech to identify and solve pressing community health issues. She has she has dual bachelors degrees in Journalism and Sociology from the University of Miami, and was an inaugural fellow at the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN.