“Killing 100%” by Laura Kelly

Laura Kelly is Pittsburgh’s youngest, most connected mover and shaker you’ve probably never heard of.  She’s still in her twenties, and not even her LATE twenties. She has her hands deep into the inner workings of many local projects, one of which is Team Tassy, which you remember brought a young Haitian man to America for life-saving surgery. So much has happened since then and here’s Laura being her usual witty self as she writes about “Tass,” to whom she has practically been a mother, and what’s next.


Growing up, my parents had very high expectations for my siblings’ and my grades. For example, in the 10th grade I got a 90% in math on my report card. For the rest of the school year a strict no TV, no computer, no friends, no smiling on school nights rule was enforced because, after all, if 100 enemy soldiers come over a hill and you kill 90 of them, those other 10 can still get you. To whom much is given, much is expected and all that jazz.

So when I asked Tassy how his Romeo & Juliet quiz went and he told me he got an 86%, I had to restrain myself from telling him about what those 14 enemy soldiers were going to do to him. Luckily though, someone recently told me that instead of saying the first thing that pops into my head, I should wait for thought number two and probably say that instead.

I waited patiently for what promised to be a stroke of genius to enter the ol’ noggin, and I’m so glad I did. What I thought of next was the memory of the first time I met Tassy. It was November 2010, and he had just landed in Miami from Haiti. After introductions and hugs, we put Tassy on the phone with another team member in Pittsburgh.

“Hello! …Very good, and you? …thank you! …that is the end of my English.”

Tassy handed back the phone, having exhausted the 13 words of English he knew.

When I came back from my very mid-90s sitcom flashback sequence to the present 86% conversation, I smiled at Tassy and said, “That’s great!”

And it was. Somehow in a little less than 18 months, this kid went from knocking on death’s door (and death would have been greeted with 13 English words) to a healthy young man, understanding 86% of a Shakespeare play.

Tassy wouldn’t be spouting soliloquies and sonnets if it weren’t for the hard work of some very special ‘Burghers. Heck, he wouldn’t even be alive.

Team Tassy, named after the man himself, has helped many other kids and families like Tassy since the Haitian earthquake in 2010. Lives have not only been saved, but qualities of life have been raised and people have been made self-sufficient.

Next Saturday, July 21, the Team is hosting what I think can objectively be called the coolest fundraiser in the history of fundraising. You know how people say they put the ‘fun’ in fundraiser? This event is going to put the ‘holy crap, this is the coolest thing ever!’ in fundraiser. (Fact: ‘holy crap, this is the coolest thing ever!’ was removed from the spelling of fundraiser in the mid-1850’s to conserve space in newspapers. I’m a Shakespeare tutor. I obviously know.)

The Great American Water Balloon Fight splashes in to (I had to)  Point State Park on Saturday, July 21 with concerts, food trucks, celebrity team captains and sweetbabyraysbbqsauce, So. Many. Balloons!

Register here and come on out! I’ll be the girl in the swim cap and ear plugs—I’m prone to swimmer’s ear.

Also, all those water balloons can’t fill themselves. If they could, I think we would probably be facing bigger problems than poverty in Haiti. I’m talking alien robot invasion problems.

Anyway, balloon filling parties are happening the rest of this week, so come on out, meet the team, check out the crazy cool filling stations and have an all around good time.

You can even smile, good grades or not.


  1. Butcher's Dog
    July 16, 2012 2:23 pm

    Um…I’m assuming the outfit will include more than cap and ear plugs. Not that I’d complain if it didn’t, mind you. Thanks for everything; you give us old farts some hope for the future of the burg.

  2. Keri
    July 16, 2012 5:27 pm

    I SO wish I could attend the fundraiser this weekend. It sounds like so much fun! GO TEAM TASSY!

  3. cmd_45
    July 23, 2012 8:25 pm

    We don’t live in Pittsburgh and, since I didn’t read this post until just now, I didn’t know about the event. But we stayed at the Wyndham on Friday night after taking in a Pirates game (Let’s Go Bucs), and saw some interesting formations on the lawn that night. After walking the Strip on Saturday we went back to our room, which had a lovely view of the confluence and were able to witness the entire water balloon fight. It looked like the best time ever and we wished we had been able to enter. By all rights, it seemed the Green Team kicked some butt but that everyone was having a blast. The best part was watching everyone help in the clean up when it was over! All of those broken balloons! And to whomever filled them, you are saints!! Go Team Tassy!