Kerri Hoskins Branson is a woman who makes her mind up about things, and does them.
That does not mean she always plans her goals or achievements far in advance. In fact some of her keenest achievements have been accomplished not because she was checking off experiences on her personal bucket list, but instead, Branson responds to challenges with an enthusiasm that raises the classic question of whether circumstances make the woman, or the other way around?
“A marathon? How far is that?”
Take Kerri Branson’s first time at running a marathon: “A bunch of my friends were out having drinks and asked me to join them. When I got there, they told me, ‘we’re running the New York City Marathon. Want to join us?’ ”
At the time Kerri Branson was already accomplished in karate and working as a personal trainer. So she knew how to get fit. But the most she’d ever run in her life was about a mile. “So I asked my friends, ‘A marathon? How far is that?’ They replied, ’26.2.’ Then I came back with ‘Sure, why not?”
Getting ready to run
The race was 5 months away, so Branson went online and read all she could about how to train for a marathon. Then she started running. In the meantime, her main training partner had to quit with a broken bone in her foot. Branson kept going but chose to enter the Twin Cities Marathon near her former hometown instead of running New York.
Despite the northerly location of the event, race day temperatures soared into the mid-80s, forcing almost everyone to back off their pace by 30%. “It was great though, “Branson says. “Fans were pelting us with water and cheering us on.
Branson’s mother still lives in the Twin Cities area and waited at the 20-mile point to cheer Kerri on, but the heat of the day had put her daughter and everyone else in the race behind their projected pace. “When I finally reached 20 miles,” Kerri smiles, “my mom came running out with tears all over her face, hugging me before I ran on to the finish. That was pretty special…”
On to Chicago
Her next marathon was Chicago 2010. Race day again arrived with temperatures in the 80s. This time Kerri ran with a training partner who kept her spirits up by throwing water at her during the race and cheering her on. “The first part of the race was fine, but as the heat got bad, we dropped off our target pace and walked to cool off. At one point I stopped sweating and that’s never a good sign.”
A back problem that flares up during high mileage training has convinced Branson to point her running efforts toward adventure races and other events that aren’t so long and time consuming, because while running remains a joy, Kerri Branson also has her sights set on exciting new challenges in other phases of life.
Raised in a family of 7 kids with one brother and six sisters, Kerri Hoskins Branson learned early how to get along and be tough in life. “My stepfather was a Vietnam Vet who suffered from PTSD, the whole thing,” she relates. “We never had a lot of money and we moved around a lot. But one thing that my mother taught us was not just to manage yourself, but also be creative. My mom didn’t especially coddle us. She was just too busy. But she did teach us that ideas and creativity do matter.”
Overcoming adversity and accepting that people handle it in different ways has become a potent theme in the life of Kerri Branson. Her two sons were born with a severe form of cerebral palsy. They spent the first 2 months of their lives in the ICU. “My husband Scott and I quickly learned that we process adversity in different ways. I needed to be there every second, educating myself on what their needs were, and how to handle things. I knew that was going to be an important job going forward,” Branson says.
Her husband Scott was at first understandably anxious seeing his sons linked to all sorts of life support systems. But as time went by Kerri and Scott worked out their roles and each has learned to play to their own strengths in raising two sons that cannot speak and require considerable, round-the-clock care.
The family also makes an annual trip to Florida to get hyperbaric oxygen therapy for their sons. “The oxygen presses inflamed areas of the brain where it would not normally go,” Kerri says, pushing her hands to her own head, imagining how it must feel. “But when we were well into treatments we had a frightening incident, because Zachary had a seizure. His body decided it had enough oxygen and he stopped breathing. I was trapped inside the hyperbaric chamber alone with him because it takes 6 minutes to get you out of there. So I started doing mouth to mouth, and it saved his life. When we came out everything was fine.” Kerri and Scott have four children and live an active lifestyle that keeps them all on the go.
Kerri Branson seems to embrace her entire life that way, going from challenges she must face, to challenges she chooses to face. “If someone tells me I can’t do something, I love to prove them wrong.”
Last year Kerri Branson even took on the challenge of running for political office. As a resident of Batavia, IL, she did not win in the race for a county board seat, but learned much about the art––and some of the ugliness––in politics along the way. She winces when she admits, “The other side resorted to some tactics that were supposed to intimidate me,” she grins. “It didn’t work. But I learned a lot.”
Getting a kick out of life
Kerri Branson is not much intimidated by anything it turns out. Her early career included modeling for Playboy and she combined that notoriety with her background in karate to become the acting and body model for the virtual character Sonya Blade in the video game Mortal Kombat. She still has many fans that follow her career and Like her on the Facebook page for her business ventures. “I love my Mortal Kombat fans,” she says. “All that brought me out of my shell.”
The Big Picture
Recently Kerri closed down her personal training business to focus her efforts on a venture that capitalizes her long term interest in the arts and serving others. Kerri and
her associates are launching an arts and events space called Creator Gallery. The gallery will feature Kerri Branson’s paintings as well as the work of one of her partners, photographer Kevin Kuster and selected other artists.
Kerri and Kevin met 20 years ago at Playboy Enterprises when Kerri was modeling, doing production work and hair/makeup for photo shoots. Kevin left Playboy last year after 20 years as Senior Photo Editor. He is currently one of the top editors for the mobile application Instagram.
Artistic talents emerge
Remarkably, Kerri Branson only began painting in 2012, but she comes from a family where her grandfather was a professional painter and her mother paints as well. Kerri takes a fresh and direct approach to painting, depicting animals and natural abstractions that stem from organic close-ups. She approaches her painting with the same fearless attitude that has driven her modeling career, personal training, being a mother and running marathons.
The business model
Creator Gallery is being backed by friends and business associates Laura and Sean Reavis of Nebraska. Sean and Laura are involved in several already successful ventures. They are ownership partners in a minor league hockey team and also own a manufacturing company. Laura is a writer and has published a children’s book. She also has a talent for interior design and works part-time as a hospital chaplain near their home in Nebraska. In his full time job, Sean is a Senior VP with BP.
The business plan is to create a space that is not only an art gallery also serves as a site for weddings, receptions, parties, arts education and other inventive events. The distinctive design of the gallery is a collaboration borne from design contributions by each of the partners, including interior designer Rebecca Ersfeld, Kerri’s mother.
Entering the gallery space, one encounters giant faux barn doors facing the front, while the bathrooms feature wood beams hewn by masterful carpenter Mark Fowler who created the beams out of telephone pole wood to create a rugged yet elegant space in the bathroom stalls where Kerri Branson installed the slate tile. The entire Creator Gallery team is installing high-quality imitation wood flooring throughout the gallery space. Materials were purchased right next door to the gallery at Douglas Tile.
The photography component of the business will include a include fine art portraiture, weddings and pets, while also working with area school districts in sports photography, graduation, drama and other events for students and families. Scott Branson, a teacher and coach in 3 sports (as well as half-marathoner) will be involved in the PR end of the business working with school districts and sporting events in area communities. .
A special mission
Creator Gallery will also reach out to special needs families who do not otherwise typically seek professional photography because of the difficulty and expense in balancing medical bills with other needs. Creator Gallery will essentially be tithing this work to the benefit of these families.
It’s already been a fantastic journey for Kerri Branson from engaging young model to Mortal Kombat warrior to personal trainer, mother and now marathoner and artist. The faith she has shown in diving into each new endeavor is reflected in the name Creator Gallery.
Kerri Branson is one of those people who seems to gain confidence by trying new things. That doesn’t mean she does not experience fear like the rest of us, but her inspiring example is in how she processes those fears and challenges to make the best out of life for everyone she meets.
Information on Creator Gallery:
- 1057 W. Orchard Rd. North Aurora, Illinois 60542