The fight against eating disorders has many warriors: parents, physicians, recovery centers, and small organizations to name a few. Still the problem continues. The trouble is not the number of fighters, but the focus of their fight. Each one operates alone, and most perpetuate the myth that eating disorders are a rich white girl disease—born of narcissism; they just need to eat. Patti Geolat founded the Something for Kelly Foundation after an eating disorder took her niece. The goal of the foundation is to eradicate eating disorders before they take root, and to shine a light on those who have been left behind by expensive treatments, cultural taboos, and insurance companies. This is not a wealthy white girl problem; this is not a choice. And in a new partnership with The Morgan Foundation, these two organizations are aiming to deal a crippling blow to this much larger problem.
In 2009, Randall Burk lost his daughter Kelly after a long battle against her eating disorder. He describes how she was heavier as a child, how she lost weight in high school after being teased by her classmates, and how she continued to lose weight through college. He and the rest of the family asked her to come home, to take care of herself and get help. She did, but “I think she must have damaged herself,” says Randall. “One day, she just didn’t wake up.”
Kelly was also Patti Geolat’s niece, and she created the foundation initially to help her family heal.
“I jumped in with both feet,” she says. She looked at other organizations, even traveling to New York City to ask NEDA where the resources were going. Where was the money to help the people struggling with eating disorders? The more she looked, the more she started to see who was being represented and who was not. Children, the LGBTQ community, the African American and Hispanic communities, and the male community had no voice.
“I was genuinely motivated to see who was being overlooked, and I think Kelly would be proud to be representing them.”
One night at the Dallas Children’s Theater, Something for Kelly’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Brett Cumberbatch, happened to meet Steve Dunn, founder of The Morgan Foundation. Steve had recently lost his daughter to an eating disorder, and was looking to change the way eating disorders are treated and talked about. Brett introduced Steve to Patti, and the two decided to join forces. “In Steve, I feel like I have a comrade and another person in the firing line with me,” says Patti.
Steve formed The Morgan Foundation after losing his daughter Morgan on October 30, 2016. A lawyer for the past 30 years, Steve immediately focused on legislation and long term strategy. He and Patti are both on the same page—the eating disorder organizations need to be unified, the insurance companies must pay for treatment, and legislation must be enacted to create real change.
Steve describes going through Morgan’s Facebook page and her journals after her death, seeing posts from people thanking her for her support as they went through recovery. He says that Morgan once lamented that she seemed to be able to help everyone but herself.
“What kind of father, what kind of person, what kind of man would I be if I didn’t carry on her message of strength, of hope, of love? I appreciate people’s sentiments, but I want them to be angry. Angry at the insurance companies; angry at the medical communities; angry at society. But, use that anger and make positive changes. When Patti and I talk, we are energized to make a difference. I have this Captain Ahab within me knowing I still have a white whale to slay. And like that white whale, eating disorders are that mask which hides evil incarnate that has plagued us since our very existence. Morgan had the heart of a lioness and the soul of a warrior, and we are going to do everything we can to save lives. My goal is that, fifty years from now, no one will know my name, but a change will have been made, lives will have been saved and people will remember two young women who were taken but their mighty voices were heard and listened to, after they were gone.”
“Something for Kelly has helped,” says Randall. “I want to get out there and educate others about it—go to schools, give presentations, and discuss it. It’s a tough thing to realize that the love you have for your daughter doesn’t cure it. You need professional help. This is a lifelong battle, and the sooner they get help the better chance they have.”
The Something for Kelly Foundation and The Morgan Foundation have found allies in each other and are fueled by the fire of their convictions, which means there is no stopping them. As Steve Dunn puts it, “It’s going to be a long fight, but I’ve got nothing but time.”