Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Your Support Restores Self to Caregivers Like Carissa

As the year comes to an end, we reflect on how our services restore self, family, and hope to our service members and military families. This inspiring story of Carissa demonstrates how programs within Hope For The Warriors® restore self not just to our service members, but also to family members and caregivers.

Carissa grew up in southern California and met her husband Ben while still in high school. They married after her graduation and she joined her husband at his Marine Corps duty in Hawaii.

On March 23, 2006, Ben was severely injured in a training accident, causing catastrophic brain injury. He shattered his skull, severely damaging his brain, broke his arms, and skull fragments severed his optic nerve, causing blindness in the right eye and the loss of his pituitary gland. Ben was in a coma for more than three weeks, had countless surgeries, and in the ICU for almost five months.  On the day of his accident, Carissa was five months pregnant with their daughter, Ellery.

Carissa & her daughter, Ellery, at Carissa's graduation

Carissa’s perseverance to her family’s rehabilitation was evident, however, and in 2009 she was asked to be a Recovery Care Coordinator in Hawaii and then at Camp Pendleton in 2011. She had in-depth, personal experience with traumatic brain injury but not with PTSD, so she returned to school to gain the necessary experience to assist her Marine, sailors, and families to the best of her ability.

While working toward her Master’s Degree in Military Social Work from the University of Southern California, Carissa was connected to Hope For The Warriors® and applied to our Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship Program. Carissa was awarded the Shannon Maxwell Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship to help pay her college tuition.  She earned her Master’s degree in May 2013.

In 2014, Hope For The Warriors® honored Carissa for her strength and courage as a caregiver at the Los Angeles Got Heart, Give Hope® Celebration.

Hope For The Warriors® President, Robin Kelleher, Honoree Carissa Tourtelot, and 
Host Gary Sinise at the 2014 Got Heart, Give Hope® Celebration in Los Angeles

“I never thought I’d be awarded for doing this,” Carissa stated. “Caring for Ben was my only choice. Ben has always been my family and will always be my family to my daughter and me.”

Carissa and Ellery have a very supportive community in Southern California. Carissa attributes her training in the field of social work to her strength as a caregiver to Ben, Ellery, and herself. Hope For The Warriors® provided Carissa the opportunity to transform her life after their families’ tragedy, which is a fundamental aspect of our programming work with military families.

Supporters are key to enabling Hope For The Warriors® accomplish our mission to restore self within the lives of service members, caregivers, and family members. We ask that you please continue your support and donate today. Your support will go toward programs such as the Spouse/Caregiver Scholarships and other opportunities to further equip service members, their families, caregivers like Carissa with the tools they need to restore self, family, and hope.

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