Children are the most important aspect in the lives of Valerie and Travis Ely. The couple raises their six children.In addition, they volunteer to assist youngsters other than their own, especially through sports-related activities.
During a recent interview, the Taos couple shared portions of an active life. Travis began by explaining their philosophy of volunteer service: "We're there where and when help is needed. We mostly help young children with their athletic activities because we love sports."
Valerie added, "We're all over the place. We have a hard time saying no when asked for help. When we have to say no, we feel terrible. Also, we mostly volunteer together because we prefer it that way. My greatest experience is to serve near my husband. He's made me a better person."
Much of their work occurs after the basketball season, with sixth- and seventh-grade boys and girls. The couple assists with this activity to provide a wholesome athletic experience during the summer when the youngsters don't attend school.
During the school year, the Elys concentrate their efforts on homeroom teams at Enos Garcia Elementary School. Since some of their children advanced to Taos Middle School, the parents volunteer at that facility.
Travis coaches basketball with Valerie's help. In the past, she also remained active as a volunteer for Mystic Dance when her daughter was a member.
In addition to helping young ones with sports, the couple belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, where they assist with activities. Valerie helps with primary groups, children four and five years old as well as playing the piano and organ.
The couple met in Wyoming at a sports-related activity in college. Valerie attended Sheridan Community College, and Travis studied at Torrington Community College. When Valerie's volleyball team attended a tournament at Torrington, the couple met and decided to continue their brief encounter with marriage and kids.
Valerie plays softball, and Travis enjoys basketball with the Taos Adult League. As a couple, Valerie and Travis play volleyball at the Taos Pueblo Community Center.
Family is important to the couple. Valerie grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah to parents Upati and Sheila Pe'a. The third of six children, Valerie Ely listed her siblings: a brother, Jerome, lives in Taos. The rest of her siblings - Sinesi (Rachelle), C.J. Tilomai, and Olsen - reside in Salt Lake City. Travis' parents are Taos residents Scott and Betsy Ely. Betsy is a kindergarten teacher.
The youngest of three children, Travis remains in close contact with siblings, Katie Belle who lives in Hawaii, and older twin sister (born eight minutes before Travis) Lauren, (Dorian) Williams of Oklahoma City.
At the center of the couple's lives and hearts are six children who keep the parents busy. "Sports are a good release; they help youngsters stay out of trouble and focused on something positive," said Valerie during a recent interview. The youngsters range from one to 13 years of age.
Daemon, the eldest, is a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Taos Middle School. His parents term him their "most active child," and the family follows Daemon as he participates in basketball, baseball, Little League All-Stars and cross-country.
Kionamus, 11, attends sixth grade at Taos Middle School. A former Mystic dancer, she belongs to the sixth-grade volleyball team and the seventh-grade basketball team.
Malakhai attends Enos Garcia Elementary School as a nine-year-old fourth grader. The youngster participates in homeroom basketball for the Tar Heels team.
Titus, 5, enjoys his role of a pre-K Enos Garcia Elementary student. His parents suspect that Titus may join T-ball this year.
The two youngest Ely children, Taimane, 3, and Sinesi, 1, remain at home with their mother. The parents refer to the youngest child as "the one who rules the world." Both parents stressed that each of their children remains free to select his or her own favorite activity, even if it's not sports.
In order to accommodate the large, growing family, parents Valerie and Travis divide their time between home and the workplace. Valerie is a stay-at-home mom. Travis works as the manager of the Stray Dog Cantina at Taos Ski Valley.
The couple's non-sport activities also remain important to them. Many of Valerie's passions center on food.
She loves to can fruit, vegetables and elk when her husband brings one home after a hunt.
"Everything I'm able to can, I will. I especially like to prepare black beans and fruit. I grew up working on food preservation, so following this style for a large family is perfect," she said. "Once, Travis and I learned that Smith's had pineapple on sale, we bought 20 pineapples. I canned them and they worked out well for the family. I'm a member of a Polynesian family (Samoa), so I sometimes prepare Polynesian food as a special treat," said the young mother. By far, though, her favorite food is "anything chocolate."
Music also delights Valerie Ely. She grew up playing guitar, ukulele, flute and piccolo. Her dancing included jazz, tap and Polynesian. Valerie teaches her children about her native Polynesian culture by teaching them the dances. Her father, a Polynesian, served in the U.S. Marines and became a naturalized citizen. Her mother is a U.S.-born citizen.
Travis, active in the restaurant business, loves all food, but prefers local New Mexico fare and Polynesian dishes. He, like his wife, loves spending time with the children.
Ely also wonders what happens to those young ones who don't have positive adult help. "My number one calling is to love those around us, especially youth. My goal is being able to build a facility that can accommodate our community--more than what is there now. Athletic-minded youth work better at their interests in a way that's better than running around the streets," said Travis.
"Helping children insures a good community, and volunteering for sports is a good way to make it happen," added Travis.
"The best part of what Travis and I do is meeting the coolest people along the way and helping other people's children to the point that they feel like ours, and therefore add to our big, wonderful family," said Valerie Ely.