Inspired by her sister, this OT student strives to change lives

By her senior year of high school, Kellsey Kloker knew what she wanted to do with her life — become an occupational therapist. 

“I have a little sister (Shannon) who has special needs,” Kloker said. “She has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. She’s definitely my inspiration for what I do.”

In high school, Kloker said her sister’s occupational therapists encouraged her to help in their sessions, allowing her to shadow their work. Little by little, Kloker not only witnessed Shannon’s progress, she noticed her family’s lives becoming easier. 

From left, Kellsey Kloker and her younger sister, Shannon.

Today, Kloker is earning her Master’s in Occupational Therapy at Brenau University. After she receives her degree, Kloker said she hopes to serve young adults with disabilities. 

“The thing that draws me with OT versus PT or speech (therapy), is that what we do in OT, we make things that are meaningful to the person,” she said. “So, we’re not just saying do 50 reps with whatever for PT, we’re saying let’s help you cook a meal. Let’s help you walk your dog, whatever. I liked that the goal of OT is life. It’s not movement, it’s not talking — it’s life.”

Through Brenau’s occupational therapy program, Kloker has worked with clients in the community, including those who visit Brenau’s in-house clinic, the Center for Productive Living. 

Kloker said she’ll never forget working with one client, who was recovering from a stroke. She said he had trouble moving the left side of his body, and missed playing his guitar.

Empathizing with her patient, Kloker had an idea. 

“I brought my ukulele just to see if he could strum it, and I was amazed to see his fingers naturally curl more than they ever have,” Kloker said. “And, he was able to play some and sing. Everybody was crying, it was the coolest moment ever.”

Each week, she brought her ukulele to their sessions and helped him practice. 

“When I said goodbye to him last Friday, he said, ‘You’ve changed my life,’” Kloker recounted. “And that totally made me cry because that’s what I want as an OT. I want to help change lives.”

When Kloker isn’t studying or working with patients, she enjoys hiking, swimming, volunteering, singing with Brenau Spectrum Singers and St. Paul United Methodist Church, playing the cello and ukulele, and watching “anything Disney.”

For nine years, Kloker said she has volunteered at Grace Arbor, an adult respite care center for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. While pursuing her undergraduate degree and entering occupational therapy school, she coached a neighborhood swim team and taught swimming lessons. She currently volunteers at Parkwood Therapy Farms, working with special needs kids on horseback.

For students considering pursuing a graduate degree in occupational therapy at Brenau, Kloker encourages them to give the program a shot and “be prepared to make mistakes.”

“I love that they set up our fieldwork for us,” she said. “I know a lot of OT schools don’t do that. And, they try to get really good sites where the teachers are really going to teach you. All of my clinical instructors have been phenomenal. I love all of them. They’re super supportive.”