Kelly Woodhouse Falardeau is more than a burn survivor. She is relentless in helping others overcome their challenges and traumas through her books, paintings, public speaking and more.
At the age of 2, a house fire caused burns to 75% of her body. Kelly then underwent several surgeries and faced ridicule, along with being bullied, shunned and avoided by her peers and others.
Despite what she went through, she went on to marry and have 3 children. She has also published three award winning books, become one of the Top Ten Most Influential and Powerful Speakers, Fierce Woman of the Year, recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and in 2013 the YMCA Woman of Distinction. She has also appeared in various newspapers around the globe and television news shows including CTV Calgary, and the BBC.
I approached Kelly when I first came up with the idea to interview those who had survived trauma and challenges for my book, “Lessons Learned From Being Run Over By A Bus!” Kelly’s zest for life, resilience, exuberance, love for others and positive energy fit the bill. She was more than happy to discuss her background and what she is doing to help others through this journey called Life.
Here is what I learned from speaking with Kelly;
KL: You have a campaign – Blankets for Burn Kids. How did you come up with the idea to help kids who have suffered from burns as you did?
KWF: Blankets for Burn Kids came as a result of a transformational weekend. When it popped into my head in the middle of the night and I thought, how about we give away 1000 blankets to the burn kids at the burn camp next summer. 10 camps with 100 blankets each and that’s 1000 blankets.
KL : You’ve created the ten blankets from your paintings. How has painting helped you as far as being a form of therapy and expressing yourself? How many paintings have you created for the blankets?
KWF: Painting has helped me to unleash the creative side of me that has been screaming at me to come out. I used to be a scrap booker before my daughter was born and that used to be my creative outlet, but I found the painting has allowed me to just be myself and not worry about being perfect. I just let it flow. I’ve created roughly 50 paintings, but the blanket is only of the one.
KL : You’re a best-selling author (and I contributed to your book, “1000 Tips for Teens”) and speaker. I know that as a writer, I learn more and more about myself just from the process of writing and that it can be a real catharsis for me. How do you approach your writing and what have you learned about yourself through the writing process?
KWF: Writing for me can sometimes be a chore, but when I’m inspired to write, I write. So, the best time for me to write is when I’m inspired. And if I don’t know what I want to write, then I just ask myself, “what does my heart say?” and then I just let if flow. I don’t double think myself or judge what my heart wants to say. I just let it flow. I have learned that writing is also a very emotional process. It’s something that can be very healing and can lead to incredible learnings. It’s always great to write about them even if you don’t know why. It’s too easy to forget the stories, so it’s always best to just write everything you can down and then judge it later. I also handwrite my books. I find it much more therapeutic and easier for me. When I type my stories, I edit and judge my work, but when I write it, I don’t. So, I do my best just to write what my heart wants to say. I also try not to get too attached to my words. Sometimes, it’s difficult to let your writings go because you think it’s such an awesome sentence or content, but sometimes you have to delete it.
KL: Which one of your books has been the most popular to date and which one is your favourite? Why do you think that is?
KWF: My favourite book is, “Self-Esteem Doesn’t Come in a Bottle,” but I know my favourite WILL be “Still Beautiful” when I release it next year. That is one that will be released in conjunction with my movie. The reason I know I will love that one the best is because it’s more about the transformation I’ve had over the past 6 years since I left my marriage and will have my deepest truths in it. Plus, I will be releasing my “Self-Love Formula” which will have a huge impact on women and young girls to help them love themselves. But my best-selling book has been “Self-Esteem Doesn’t Come in a Bottle,” because it has more about “how to develop self-esteem.” My second favourite is my “No Risk No Rewards” book, that was my first book and has more of my story about how I went from near death to success and has the letters from my mom about how I got burnt and what she was going through when I got burnt.
KL: A lot of people have said they’d rather die than speak in public, yet you go in front of the public to share your message. What obstacles did you have to overcome in order to do what you most definitely, have been destined to do – help others who are in pain? How many people do you estimate, have you spoken to about your story?
KWF: Yes, it can be very difficult to get up on stage and believe that you are “good enough” to share your message. One of my obstacles has been my grandma’s little voice that sometimes pops up and says, “quit bragging about your life.” That was always so engrained in me is that you need to be humble and never say anything great about yourself because people will think you’re bragging. But yet, I know that I got burnt when I was only 2 years old to most of my body so that I could teach others how to feel beautiful even with an ugly scarred up body. That’s my purpose. My grandpa told me the story of how scared he was when I got burnt and thought I was going to die. He thought it was his fault I got burnt because he told my cousins to throw the shingles in the fire. He went to the pastor of his church and he said, “don’t worry, your granddaughter will not die, there is a reason she has lived through this horrible tragic accident and God will let her live.” My grandpa believed I would live after that. So, when I was 18 and wanted to know when to know why I lived instead of dying, my grandpa told me that story. I knew I had a purpose, I just didn’t know what it was. So as challenging as it is for me to get on that stage every time, I do it because I know it’s my purpose and I can’t stand that women and teen girls are so hard on themselves and think they are so ugly and yet every day I look in the mirror and I see the ugly scars on my body. But yet, somehow, I still manage to go out the door. I estimate that over a million people have heard my message, whether it be on the radio, internet, speeches, newspapers, magazines, YouTube, social media, etc.
KL: You have gone through many challenges in your life, first as a toddler and suffering burns to 75% of your body and then being bullied, shunned and avoided as well as going through a divorce. What would you say was the most traumatic event (and I know this may be a hard question) and how did you overcome it? What was going on for you in your mind and did you have to radically change your self-talk?
KWF: The most traumatic even in my life has been the loss of my baby still-born daughter when she was only 28 weeks old in-utero. I wondered, why? Why did I lose that little baby girl? What did I do? I blamed myself and it was so devastating for me. When I was only 5 months pregnant with her, I remember saying to my belly, “It’s okay if you don’t make it because he doesn’t want you,” and 2 months later I lost her. I was absolutely devastated! My ex-ex-husband at the time didn’t want a second baby and was upset I was pregnant. I was also pregnant at the same time as his niece, in fact we had the same due date. She had a baby and I didn’t. I found out her umbilical cord grew shut, not open. But then a couple of years later I got pregnant again and this time I had the twin boys. And then I realized what her gift was…she died so the twins could be born. We never would have had the twins if she had been born. She left us, so she could be in heaven with my dad and grandparents, and we could have twins.
KL: What keeps you going every day?
KWF: What keeps me going every day is knowing that I have a purpose and passion and the will and desire to help others to succeed and love who they are. I also have 3 kids and a family who would be absolutely devastated if I left this earth. They would blame themselves and that wouldn’t be fair to them. So, every day, I keep moving forward knowing that my message is meant to be shared with others so they too can get up in the morning and not be so concerned with being perfect. The other thing that keeps me going is little girls like “Rosie,” a little girl who got burnt last year when she was only a year and a half. Now she’ll have to live through my life of being shunned, teased, rejected and stared at. That’s why we sent her one of our “You are Loved, You are Needed, You are Wanted” blankets. A symbol of love from the angels.
KL: What topics are you asked to speak the most on?
KWF: Three of my favourite topics are, “You’re More Than Enough,” “Not All Scars Are Visible,” and “Self-Esteem Doesn’t Come in a Bottle.” In the first speech, I talk about value and how it doesn’t come from how much money you make or don’t make. Not all scars are visible is my speech where I talk about how there are gifts in our tragedies and we need to use them as such instead of holding us back in our lives. Self-Esteem doesn’t Come in a Bottle, is all about finding the beauty within.
KL: What are you the most grateful for?
KWF: I’m grateful for the journey I am on and for the people who love and support me and want to see me share my message with the world.
To find out more about Kelly Woodhouse Falardeau and her work, please visit her websites at:
Kimberley Langford is the Author of the Book, “The Evolving Woman Series…. Daily Reflections”, sold on Amazon.ca. Her second book in the series “The Evolving Woman Series Daily Reflections, What Lies Beneath the Mask, “will be published in late January, 2018.
If you want to know more about contributing your story about overcoming a challenge or tragedy to her book, “Lessons Learned From Being Run Over By A Bus!”, please contact the author on her Facebook Page, “Fans of Kimberley Langford, Author.”