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From Ballet to Bodywork: Kelley Boyd’s Journey to Massage and Service in Guatemala

Kelley Boyd is a licensed massage therapist who has volunteered on two medical missions with Global Healthworks Foundation. With a gentle and loving spirit, Kelley creates a sense of comfort and calm with each patient who lies on her table. It has been an absolute pleasure to have her on our GHF practitioner team. Read about Kelley’s GHF story below.

From Ballet to Bodywork: Kelley Boyd’s Journey to Massage and Service in Guatemala

Massage therapist Kelley Boyd treats quietly and introspectively, moving around her table with a lightness and grace, characteristic of her life as a classically trained dancer.  Though her focus rarely wavers from the person on her table, if you’re fortunate to catch her gaze, you’ll receive a soft smile of warmth and acknowledgement—a smile that seems to radiate through her hands and onto her patients with effortless ease.

A dancer with the American Ballet Theatre for thirteen years, Kelley sought a second career in massage therapy in 2015, when she began attending the Swedish Institute in New York. “You can’t be a dancer forever,” Kelley says of her decision to switch professional gears.  “As I was thinking about the transition process, I asked friends in the profession about whether it would be better to go into physical therapy or massage therapy. Hands down, everyone said massage therapy.  It’s a little more flexible, and with my kids, it’s better for our schedule.”

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Kelley first learned of Global Healthworks Foundation (GHF) through her husband Steve, a patient of Dan Wunderlich, GHF Founder and Executive Director.  “Dan invited me down last year right after I graduated,” Kelley shares.  “It was an amazing experience.  In some ways, I learned just as much, if not more, as I did in massage school—things to do for sinus issues, pediatric cough, the proper back protocol before bone sets, and different ways to approach stroke patients.”

Dan says he knew instinctively the first time they met that Kelley would be a great fit with the GHF team. “What a great opportunity for a practitioner just out of school to gain so much experience in such a short time,” Dan says.  “I knew it would be extremely beneficial for both our patients and Kelley.” And his instinct proved right.  “She was a rock star on her first trip.  She was a team player, the first to arrive and the last to leave, and she really engaged with the patients—and the patients responded to Kelley’s therapeutic touch and gentleness. I’m really happy she rushed back for a second time.”


“the patients responded to Kelley’s therapeutic touch and gentleness.”


Though trained in both Shiatsu and Swedish massage, Kelley primarily offers Shiatsu while in Guatemala, partially because most patients, particularly women, keep on their clothing during treatment.  Her approach to patients anywhere in the world, she says, isn’t dramatically different, however, she’s able to employ skills in Guatemala she rarely uses in New York.  “If there’s something going on with a patient’s lungs, for example, I can do a lung treatment with Shiatsu and work the appropriate channels.  Many of the treatments are the same, but the intention is a little bit different.” 

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The calm, steadied look on patients’ faces as they step off Kelley’s table speaks to the quality of her treatments.  It filters beyond her own individual space into the larger treatment room and to those around her.  “Kelley is extremely attentive, not only to the people she’s treating, but also to the people near her, those of us working alongside her,” says Brandon McGregor, massage therapist and fellow GHF volunteer.  “You can tell she’s delivering really quality treatments to the people she’s working with.”

While her clients in New York and Guatemala are mostly adults, Kelley’s love for children is palpable.  Her soft smile quickly transitions into a full-fledged grin when a child appears by her side.  “There’s such an innocence with kids, especially here,” she says.  “It’s so beautiful to see them light up with little things like a sticker, a high five, or a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.  It’s really just about human connections, and it doesn’t matter where you grew up or what your economic background is.  There are some things that are just human and within all of us.”