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Ava’s Gift

Mary Burich | April 19, 2019


Team member finds consolation and purpose in daughter’s spirit

Five months after Kyle Shelly’s 8-year-old daughter passed away from cancer, he’s still reeling from the shock and pain of losing her, but something happened recently that gave him reason to feel hopeful again.

In March 2019, Kyle accepted a job as a production supervisor with Hormel Foods at its Beloit (Wis.) Plant, a move that marked his return to the workforce after Ava’s death. In his first days with the company, he traveled to the Corporate Office in Austin, Minn., to participate in the Inspired Hires new-hire orientation program. That’s when Kyle noticed The Hormel Institute, a leading cancer-research facility located on the Hormel Foods campus. He saw something else as well. A rainbow appeared to begin and end over the building.

Kyle Shelly Facebook Post

“It was kind of overwhelming coming into something that was so new to me. When I went up for the interview, I didn’t even know Hormel Foods did anything like that,” Kyle said, referring to the work of the institute. “To see the rainbow over it, it was like wow. What a sign, what a greeting.”

The road to Ava’s diagnosis of metastatic osteosarcoma – bone cancer that had spread to her lungs – began innocently enough. She had a bump on her leg from what Kyle and her mother, Nicole, assumed was the result of falling in the backyard. When the injury didn’t improve and in fact, worsened, Kyle and Nicole took Ava to the doctor. A routine x-ray revealed something they never expected to confront. Less than six months later, Ava was gone.

Kyle & Ava Shelly

Kyle posted a picture of the rainbow on social media, commenting that he believed it was a message from his daughter that he was where he was supposed to be. Nicole shared the post on Ava’s Tribe, a page that was set up months ago to share news and words of encouragement during Ava’s illness. One of the thousands of followers saw the image while in Costa Rica shortly after its posting and made yet another connection for Kyle.

“He said the only bacon available in Costa Rica is from Hormel Foods,” Kyle said. When the follower asked why, he was told, “It’s because it’s the best.”

“I don’t know who he is,” Kyle said. “But I think it’s another sign from Ava that I’m in the right place.”

Kyle and Nicole are also parents to Ashton, 1; and Alexia, 12. As the family works to heal from the grief over Ava’s passing, Kyle knows she’s not entirely gone.

“She was in the rainbow, and she’s with me always,” he said.