Leigh Kellis, the founder of Holy Donut, is leaving Maine on Sunday. She’ll be gone a year, leaving her business in the capable hands of her brother-in-law. She’ll miss the rest of summer, Maine’s beautiful fall season (including Holy Donut’s amazing apple doughnuts), and the first pristine blanket of winter snow.

But don’t feel too sorry for her. Kellis is moving to Hawaii to support her 15-year-old daughter, Avery Peacock, who is a competitive surfer. She’ll still be making doughnuts, but with taro root instead of Maine potatoes.

“I’m a surf mom like a soccer mom,” Kellis said. “There’s not a lot of surf moms out there, but I love it. It’s my happy place.”

Avery Peacock, 15, has fun surfing at Higgins Beach. Peacock’s mother, Leigh Kellis, the owner of Holy Donut, is moving to Hawaii for a year to support Peacock’s entry into competitive surfing. Photo courtesy of Leigh Kellis

Avery Peacock has been surfing ever since her father, Jason Peacock (also a surfer), started working with her when she was a year old, Kellis said. Born in California, Avery Peacock has competed in New England, and has had plenty of practice on bigger waves in Hawaii, where she goes regularly to visit her father/surfing coach. She plans to enter more competitions in Hawaii. Peacock wants to become a professional longboarder at some point, her mother said, because longboard surfboards offer more room for finesse in footwork.

“This will up her game a little bit and give her some more challenge to improve,” Kellis said. “Even the kids in high school there are really good.”

Although Kellis loves being a surf mom, “it can be horrible,” she said. “Waves can be huge. She’s vulnerable as all hell. The ocean is no joke, but it’s just like being a football parent. You have to sit there and watch them do it. You have to endure the fear. It’s scary, but it’s awesome. … Her courage is amazing to me.”

Kellis, who will be living on Oahu’s North Shore (“the mecca of surfing”), isn’t worried about leaving her business behind because “it’s at a place where it’s running really well without me.” She said she’s been hands off the day-to-day operation of Holy Donut for a couple of years now, although she still helps with branding, philanthropy and social media.

Tuesdays at Holy Donut, for example, are known as Tie Dye Tuesday. On Tie Dye Tuesdays, launched this summer, the company gives a donation to one of three organizations: Friends of Casco Bay; the Special Olympics; or Full Plates, Full Potential. It’s also the day that, once a month, employees in tie-dyed “Flour Power” T-shirts volunteer to deliver free flowers to 50 nursing home residents. Fleur de Lis Floral Design in South Portland sells the flowers to Kellis at cost.

Leigh Kellis outside the Holy Donut on Park Avenue in Portland. Soon she may be sampling malasadas in Hawaii. Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

While she’s in Hawaii, Kellis will be holding retreats where she’ll promote the ideas about food and eating for health that she just put into a book (she’s still looking for a publisher). “I had some health issues,” she said, “and I went through a personal transformation.”

Kellis struggled with Hashimoto’s disease, a condition in which the immune system attacks the thyroid. She fought the illness by changing her diet – juicing, as well as eating vegan and gluten-free. At her retreats, she’ll focus on “eating amazing food, hiking waterfalls and loving life.”

And yes, she’ll make doughnuts for her healthy retreats, but with taro instead of potatoes. “I’m going to put a Hawaiian spin on what I’m doing here,” she said.

Aloha, Leigh! See you in a year, tanned and rested.


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