Many people have creative ideas. And some dream up ways to solve problems they encounter daily. But very few follow up on those and create a business that lasts. Kelly French is one of Jackson’s finest who not only has great ideas but also has the grit and determination to make them a success.
A week out of college Kelly arrived in town like many bright-eyed graduates. Waitressing is a common job choice and she followed that path at the Wort and Silver Dollar. It was while working at the Wort she became inspired. She was recycling bottles in her old Acura in 1994 when she decided to create Jackson Curbside Recycling, which she still runs today.
Being eco-conscious is helpful in her career choice as well as reinforces her love of Jackson. When you love the environment and your town you end up taking good care of both. Married with two boys, Kelly explains that as a family they “love to fish, camp, and ski…we love being on the river, mountain bike rides and music festivals.” And if she is ever on her own, she loves hiking anytime she has the chance.
Jackson Hole is a destination that draws visitors from all over the world. But the thing that makes Jackson different from other towns is the character of the people who decide to stay after the vacation ends. She says “it takes a certain type of person to make it work here.” And adds “Jackson is full of active, passionate, fun-loving people with a great appreciation for the natural world.” Her family has been supportive of her choice to make the decision to live in Jackson full time. She notes that “it’s the great people here, all of whom have made the active to decision to live here” why it is easy to call it home.
Raised in Baltimore, the one thing she wished she had from home when she moved to Jackson was lacrosse. The game “has long been a big part of life in Baltimore.” When her two boys were young she feared they wouldn’t have the chance to play the game since she moved to a town without a single team or field with kids playing it regularly like they were back in Maryland.
However, Kelly’s natural instinct kicked in. She recognized a problem, identified a solution, and then began working tirelessly until it became a reality. She is quick to give credit to “the unwavering efforts day-in and day-out by a small dedicated team of volunteer lacrosse enthusiasts.” They include past players and amazing coaches. She captions a good phrase to describe this effort as “a great adventure in progress.” The list of needs is always longer than the list of resources available but it doesn’t stop the teamwork to reach the goal of more fields, training, finding closer competition, and improving their home tournament. Each season the enrollment grows, the excitement builds and the players get better. However, the one hurdle she isn’t able to overcome is the short length of the season. Given the timing of spring break and the end of school only leaves about 6-8 weeks to play at most. That is not a lot when compared to other towns and clubs. Yet, Kelly doesn’t let that get her down. She recalls that there is a need and desire for lacrosse in Jackson despite the difficulties they face. She recognizes “Tyler Hardy and Charlie Ross deserve the credit for starting the initial teams, and luckily for all of us the love of the game has spread like wildfire in Jackson Hole.” It wasn’t long ago when kids aged kindergarten through 5th grade all practiced on the same field and team. Today, Kelly explains the best part is “the joy of driving by a field on any given day and seeing kids – girls and boys of all ages – playing lacrosse.”
Kelly encourages friends who first visit the mountains to try new activities. Her belief that “you never know what you will fall in love with” could be a motto for her life. It is her openness and enthusiasm, which is inspiring. Discussing the joy of raising a family in Jackson gives a great insight into her passion for not only the valley but for life, in general. “There is always great joy in living everyone else’s vacation with so many choices for outdoor fun as a family. Having mountains and the national parks as your own backyard makes for a fantastic childhood and happy grown-up children, too!”
Jackson Hole is lucky to have such a creative, enthusiastic, nature-loving lacrosse mom as Kelly. Her ability to find solutions to problems she sees in daily life in Jackson is a testament to keep trying, keep looking for ways and don’t give up. Jackson Hole is special because it has many residents like Kelly, who care deeply about her natural surroundings that they protect her so they can enjoy it with their friends and family for years to come.
h/t Bridget Pattee