The Courageous Faces Foundation improves the quality of life for people with a range of afflictions
After 25 years in the high-pressure financial services industry, Trish Morris was ready for a change. The stresses of handling other people’s money amid market volatility had taken a toll; she needed to move in a different direction.
As she contemplated her options, Morris reflected on lessons learned from her maternal grandmother. “She was my role model,” Morris recalls. “She taught me to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and how a single act of kindness can have a rippling effect, one both profound and positive.”
That life lesson led Morris to volunteer for the Special Olympics and the Global Down Syndrome Foundation; and that led to full-time employment as the Global Down program director, work that warmed her heart and gave her peace of mind.
Still, she felt she could do more. So Morris started the Special People Special Needs Foundation, which received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in August 2014. The name has since been changed to the Courageous Faces Foundation, helping people living with afflictions as diverse as burns, dwarfism and alopecia.
Believed to be the first U.S. organization serving such a specialized clientele, it is also unusual because several members of the governing board have medical conditions that could qualify them as clients. Board chair Marcus Jackson was paralyzed playing football in his senior year of college; vice president Jeff Carter suffered third- and fourth-degree burns over 57 percent of his body in a helicopter crash; Alison Hradek has Down syndrome; and Francis Smith was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a rare craniofacial condition that leaves him unable to hear or speak.
Morris, her board and volunteers are determined to create a world where everyone, regardless of physical or intellectual differences, is seen as a person first. “We focus on making a difference in the quality of a client’s life,” says Morris, adding that 17 of the current 23 client families served live well below the poverty line.
For Zara, who was born in Iran with Freeman-Sheldon syndrome, which causes severe disfigurements of the face, hands and feet, help came in the form of a Kitchen-Aid mixer; the handle of its metal bowl is easy for the woman to grasp with her club hands, and it won’t break if she drops it.
Reggie, who suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic neurological disorder that produces tumors on the skin and internal organs, had a tough time finding slacks that would accommodate his 28-inch left knee. When Morris met with him at a hotel near his Houston home, their meeting coincided with a conference hosted by the Custom Tailors & Designers Association. A member caught wind of Reggie’s plight and soon he was being measured for a custom wardrobe. The association also adopted the Courageous Faces Foundation as its charity of choice.
KJ suffered severe burns in a fire fatal to his mother and younger brother. After spending three weeks in a hospital burn unit, he was on the road to recovery when a drug allergy triggered the very rare Stevens-Johnson syndrome, or burning from the inside out. It almost cost him his life. Morris met KJ at a burn survivors conference and was so taken with him and his goal of becoming a blogger that she set him up with a laptop, printer, internet service and other items to make his family’s run-down home in Oklahoma more comfortable.
The foundation was launched with a generous gift from Bill Doogan, chief executive officer of the Interurban Companies, and his wife, Roxanne. Individual donors and fundraising events including the May 6 Superheroes Gala generate additional income.
The gala, to be held at the Marriott City Center, will feature entertainment by the World Classic Rockers, made up of former members of such bands as Journey, Steppenwolf and Lynyrd Skynyrd, as well as dinner, an auction and the presentation of the Humanitarian and Courageous Spirit awards.
TO GIVE: Donations of any amount are gladly accepted, either by mail or by visiting the foundation’s website.
TO VOLUNTEER: Opportunities include office tasks (like data entry and research) and help with the Superheroes Gala.
COURAGEOUS FACES FOUNDATION
7495 E. Peakview Ave., Centennial