Meet the Humans of the Keys

Meet the Humans of the Keys

Monday, August 31, 2015

Ashley Velez, Key Largo

My name is Ashley. I’m a proud Mommy to a beautiful toddler, Alexia and wife to the most amazing friend and husband, Derick Velez. I was originally born in the United Kingdom and moved to the United States in 1987. I grew up mostly in South Florida but spent a couple years in California and New York. I met my husband in 2008 and we were married in 2009.
In 1992 my husband’s father died in his arms from a massive heart attack at the age of 53. Derick’s life shattered into a million pieces. The depression was too much to bear so he found happiness in creating a clown character, named Poe Poe. Poe Poe graduated from Clown School and it wasn’t long before Poe Poe became the inspiration everyone needed, including himself. Through his character Poe Poe dedicated his life and mission to promote laughter, love and happiness and he made a positive impression of law enforcement to the children in the community. Before we were married my amazing hubby encouraged and inspired me to create a clown character. In early 2009 I officially became a Professional Clown of America, named Giggles. Not only was I officially married now but I also married my beloved Poe Poe. Poe Poe and Giggles a.k.a Derick and Ashley soon created a non-profit organization – Poe Poe’s Precinct, Inc. which operated under the name Clown Town. Clown Town was a Safe Place for children to gather, learn and play after school and during the summer. We carried out our mission by volunteering, educating, participating in community events and organized/ attended fundraisers for disadvantaged families, terminally ill children and assisted charities.
For the next 3 years we went through the process of In Vitro Fertilization multiple times. Each pregnancy brought miscarriage with the last one being in 2012 where we lost twins. After 3 devastating miscarriages we were ready for a new beginning, somewhere else. In August 2012, we moved to the Key Largo. After 28 years in Law Enforcement my husband had always dreamed of one day retiring near the crystal clear waters in the Florida Keys. Soon after we moved here he was hired on by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office as a Deputy Sherriff for the road in the Upper Keys. I started a position at Keys Holiday Rentals, a vacation rental company in Islamorada. The owners are like my family and the job has become such a positive part on my life, both personally and professionally. I couldn’t imagine myself working for anyone or anywhere else. I also couldn’t imagine my life without my best friend, Kelly Randin who I met here in 2013. Kelly and her Family are a huge part of our lives. Our daughters play together often, our husbands are friends and Kelly and I are like sisters, even twins sometimes…. We also met a very special person last year, Jackie Harder. Jackie has made a huge impact in our lives mainly because of our daughter. We don’t have family nearby so Jackie has become like a grandmother to our sweet pea, not to mention a wonderful friend to Derick and I. I truly have met so many wonderful people in this community…including the person that asked me to write this article, Bianca Nelson.
On June 27, 2013 our baby girl, Alexia was born – 6lbs 13oz. The first year and half was tough – in and out of hospitals with infections, other illnesses and emergency surgeries. Our sweet angel’s immune system was extremely compromised from birth but after 18 months everything turned around, thanks to the doctors at Kendall Baptist Memorial and Dr. Stanley Zuba of Florida Keys Pediatrics.
In May 2015 Derick was accepted for a position as the School Resource Officer at Marathon High School. After 30 years in law enforcement, this is exactly where he wanted to be to finish the last years of his career….and what better place than to be doing what he loves the most –working with kids. Sadly on Friday, June 26 our lives were turned upside down when Derick suffered two heart attacks at the age of 52. The first one at our home in Key Largo and then a massive heart attack at the hospital. He was rushed into emergency surgery. It felt like days before doctors came out to talk to me. My whole world was on what felt like “fast forward”. I felt frightened, lost and for about 10 minutes of the 4 hours I waited for him to arrive in ICU I felt disconnected….almost like my soul mate wasn’t here anymore. I remember getting up and walking to every double door saying hello is anyone there? please answer me….. It was minutes later when I felt this tight squeeze in my chest just stop. He was out of surgery and being wheeled into ICU. After a week in Critical Care the team of doctors agreed that Derick needed Open Heart Surgery due to the other 85% blockage on the left side of his heart – Open Heart Surgery was scheduled for August 3, 2015.
August 3rd was an extremely difficult day but when the doctors came out to report that Derick’s Double Bypass Open Heart Surgery had gone extremely well, I knew life could only get brighter for us. Derick is fighting to get through his recovery with few complications. It’s been a struggle and the road ahead is long but we are positive. We have the support of friends, family, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and this wonderful community. Derick and Alexia are my whole world. A piece of me is broken when either of them are suffering. I simply never imagined I would one day have it all, and I do. My life is full of love, happiness, peace and laughter. What more could a girl ask for?
Thank you for letting me share my story.


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