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Everyone needs friends. All Friends Network helps ensure everyone has them.

Trevor Kelliher started All Friends Network to connect people with cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities.

Trevor Kelliher no longer feels alone in his struggle with cerebral palsy.
Trevor Kelliher no longer feels alone in his struggle with cerebral palsy.
Photo by Jay Heater
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For much of his life Trevor Kelliher has felt alone in his struggle with cerebral palsy.

Topping his problems was the fact he had a hard time making friends. Those people his own age — Kelliher is now 23 — had different priorities in their lives.

He was lonely.

So, after moving in 2019 to Lakewood Ranch with his dad, Greg, he wondered how he could change things. He brainstormed with his dad about possible solutions.

In spring 2020, All Friends Network was born.

The Kellihers decided to start an online network that would allow those with cerebral palsy, autism and other developmental disabilities to connect and develop relationships. 

As Trevor says, “Everyone deserves a best friend.”

Off to a slow start due to the pandemic, All Friends Network is finally rolling in 2023. For months after its launch, All Friends Network had eight members. Now it has 135.

Best of all, Trevor no longer feels alone.

“I definitely have a positive outlook on life,” he said in April in the All Friends Network office in the Lakewood Ranch Corporate Park. “All Friends Network definitely has done a lot for me. Going through something alone is tough.”

As he began meeting the members, at both online and in live events sponsored by All Friends Network, Trevor learned many of them were facing more difficult challenges than the ones he faces.

“I am relieved I am not the only one,” he says. “I kind of thought I was. That is what happens when you don’t interact with people.”

While he talks about being alone, Trevor makes sure it is known that his dad and his dad’s best friend, Paul Amato, are exceptions. The three of them — Trevor says Amato is like his uncle — started All Friends Network together and serve as the nonprofit’s officers.

Trevor Kelliher founded All Friends Network with support from Paul Amato (left) and Greg Kelliher (right), his father.
Photo by Jay Heater

Greg Kelliher is proud of what All Friends Network has done for its many members, but even more so for what it has meant to his son. “He eats and breathes this. This has given him a purpose in life. He has matured with his confidence level.”

At times, it is obvious Greg has to hold back from trying to protect his son. As All Friends Network was getting started, he often would finish his son’s sentences. Cerebral palsy makes speech a chore and those not willing to be patient while Trevor talks are likely to miss the message.With Trevor now the face of the organization, his father has to take a step back.

That can be hard to do. Greg talks about his son’s job at a grocery store after they moved to Lakewood Ranch and how annoyed he was that customers would ask his son if he had been drinking because of his speech and mobility issues.

However, the father and son often have conversations about the fact that people, in general, aren’t trying to be mean, but simply don’t understand.

Trevor is often frustrated by his limitations.

“With CP, it’s weird,” he says. “I can play pickleball, but I can’t pour a full gallon of milk. I can’t drive down the road, but I can do an airport by myself.”

Those are frustrations that members of All Friends Network face as well, so they go through it all together.

Mote Ranch’s Mary Lou and Bob Fenton said their daughter, Emily, has enjoyed being a part of All Friends Network.

“It has been very helpful, and it’s good to give folks social opportunities,” Bob Fenton says. “And Trevor has been very creative. He is a young man who is not letting his limitations limit him.”

In March, All Friends Network visited Refuge Retreat in Arcadia. The members enjoyed cornhole, swamp buggy rides and a cookout. In April, the members attended a Tampa Bay Lightning game. A Tampa Bay Rays game is planned for July. The group has taken a boat ride down the Manatee River and met for game nights.

The Refuge Retreat “safari” event drew 75 members, but 30 minutes before it was to begin, few had arrived.

“He was nervous,” Greg says of his son. “But once he saw the turnout, it was serenity.”

Trevor was a bit nervous because the owners of Refuge Retreat donated the space to All Friends Network and he wanted to make sure it was well-attended. It ended up being one of All Friends Network’s best events. 

“The safari ... no one left until the final bell,” Trevor says.

The two Kellihers and Amato would like to expand the opportunities for live events in the future, but they have been running — and paying — for everything. They understand the organization needs to evolve as more people join.

To this point, Greg says they have focused on building trust because parents and caregivers are protective. He said gaining support from Easter Seals was of great help.

Financially, the three are developing strategies in seeking grants and hosting fundraisers.

“We paid out of pocket for the hockey game,” Greg says. “That was $68 a ticket for 28 tickets. People think that someone else is paying for everything.”

Eventually, adding funds will be important if All Friends Network hopes to expand. Although about 70% of All Friends Network members live in Florida, the group has members in 30 states now.

Trevor and Greg have traveled within Florida and to other states to meet members who can’t participate in live events. With the membership expanding, Trevor meets the new members and often puts members together so they can communicate independently and develop a relationship.

“It is so great to see them come out of their shells,” says Greg.

“This has all been very fun,” says Trevor. “More fun than I would have thought. The change in society that we wanted to make is that everyone should have friends, and that you can communicate with people in many ways.

“All I wanted to do in life is to make a difference.”



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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