Miraval Gives Back Recipients
Each month, Miraval carefully selects a deserving individual who is in need of the healing that only Miraval can provide. We hope you are inspired by the stories below.
JULY 2014 RECIPIENT
Keisha — Philadelphia, PA
Read the nomination letter that Keisha's friend Donna submitted:
Keisha Johnson gives, all the time. At work, to the challenging students she works with; to her colleagues, who rely on her for so much; to her friends, for whom she is the "go to" person for everything; to the charities she helps raise money for, from the MS Zumbathon in Philadelphia, to the kid’s schools supplies projects she continuously works on. She also led students in Guatemala and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina on social service mission projects while she studied at Temple University.
Keisha overcame challenges presented in her childhood and put herself through college receiving her Associates Degree from a local Community College. She came to Philadelphia to finish her BA, and then received a Master’s Degree, and was hired into their Resident Life program full time after graduation. She is an extraordinarily gifted woman, working hard in the vineyards of higher education at a small suburban college. She works so hard for others and can never get enough "me" time, or the kind of great perspective vacation that Miraval provides. She has also battled back big weight problems, losing more than 70 lbs., and struggling with the final 30. She has organized a support group called “The Juice Boost Crew”, to encourage others struggling with weight problems and help them break some of their worst food habits. This group provides a tremendous support and the members are producing astonishing results.
Choose Keisha Johnson. She really, truly, deserves it, and I am sure it WILL be a game changer for her. And those of you at Miraval who participate in this choice will never regret it.
JUNE 2014 RECIPIENT
Jennifer — Bellingham, WA
Read the nomination letter Jennifer's husband Thomas submitted:
My wife Jen needs her spirit fed. In 2012, I was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease. Our 2nd child was just one month old when we received the news, and our oldest was nearly two. We were stunned, and devastated. The life expectancy of my disease is cruelly short, 4-6 years on average, and there is no treatment or cure.
This reality is hard to swallow. We are facing many challenges physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually, but Jen is my rock. She works full-time while juggling our two young girls, our finances, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, scheduling appointments, looking after my health and caring for me, and managing all that comes with my disease.
She is loving, tireless, strong, positive, selfless, nurturing, truly Supermom and an amazing wife. I am so lucky and grateful to have her by my side. But I do worry about her. She never takes time for herself because she’s too busy taking care of everyone else, and too worried about our finances to spend any money on herself. We do not have any family in town to call on for help, and babysitters are a luxury we cannot afford, so she is run ragged. She may have a smile on her face, but I know she carries a heavy burden, and I want to do whatever I can to ease the burden because when I am gone, she will need to live on and be strong for our girls.
If there were one thing I could give to my wife, it would be a break from her life and my disease, to escape to a place where she can pause and take a breath, put herself first, enjoy and value a guilt-free moment to be pampered and nurtured, and truly have time to discover and cherish who she is. Please feed her spirit, so that she may continue to feed others’.
MAY 2014 RECIPIENT
Brett — San Diego, CA
Read the nomination letter Brett's wife Tami submitted:
Please consider my husband, Brett Carter, for this wonderful opportunity for healing. He’s a very compassionate person with a lot of integrity, has had a lot of loss in his life, has anxiety and depression, and is facing possible job loss and surgery. I hope to give back some "me time" for him to relax, recover and rejuvenate at your wellness spa.
Brett and I wanted a baby very much; after 4 miscarriages our little Haley was a true blessing. When she was born Brett was so happy, and was a doting and playful daddy. In 2000, at 3 ½ years old our Haley died from complications after six open-heart surgeries; she was our only child. It was a traumatic and horrific time – neither of us wanted to live without our precious daughter.
I couldn't return to work, but Brett was determined to stay employed, and has had several jobs since. His sacrifice enabled me to join a bereavement group and process my grief full time.Brett never had that luxury. After her death he was lonely, isolated, and lost his zest for life.
His mother abandoned him when he was a baby and was raised by his grandmother and dad.That beloved grandmother, his dad and his daughter all died within 2 ½ years!I believe all this heartache has caught up to him. I feel he has leveraged his health and happiness to provide for me and needs to learn how to give back to himself.
Since Haley died he has had 2 hip replacements, shoulder problems, and a torn meniscus. This restricted his fitness regimen, adding to depression, lack of self-worth and fear of the future. He might benefit from experiencing new activities such as yoga, hiking or gym instruction.
He now fears losing his job, is under extreme stress worrying about paying doctor bills, and is anxious of an uncertain financial future. He is trying to find a purpose, to live in the present moment and to meditate, but is struggling with so much anxiety and depression that it’s hard for him to relax or sleep. Though kind and compassionate to others, he is very hard on himself.
He’s happiest when he's creating /cooking, helping others, or occasionally golfing or basking in the sun.He loves the desert, cooking, and making people smile. When Haley was in the hospital he would visit other children in the ICU who were all alone, even though his own baby was in critical condition. He talks to and makes eye contact with homeless people, always helps strangers in need and stops to assist people with car trouble. Soon after Haley died, he delivered toys to underprivileged children at shelters; these are just a few examples of his character.
Experiencing Miraval is just what Brett’s soul needs; devoting a few days all to himself with no responsibilities, focusing on healing mind, body and spirit.
He’s a wonderful guy & deserves to be cared for in the special way Miraval is known for.
April 2014 Recipient
Debbie — Raliegh-Durham, NC
Read the nomination letter Debbie's friend Amanda submitted:
I am nominating my friend Debbie for Miraval’s new program. Debbie will be celebrating 10 years cancer free this June. Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 32, just a few years after I met her in graduate school. Debbie’s mom died of breast cancer when Debbie was nine- sadly, breast cancer has really defined Debbie from a young age.
After Debbie successfully battled her aggressive and genetic form of breast cancer she had her wedding which had been postponed due to treatment. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding and stood in awe of how much she had been through in our short time of being friends. Debbie and I met in graduate school- we were getting our Masters of Social Work. What I have watched Debbie go through since knowing her is mind blowing. During Debbie’s cancer she was devastated to have to lose her breasts and go through such a body transformation at such a young age and especially after only a few months of getting engaged. Although choosing a double mastectomy was the only route to go based on her family history, Debbie lost a part of herself that year and it has truly tested her strength.
While going through her surgery she was shocked that women were not shown “process” pictures in order to better understand what breast reconstruction would be like. After all Debbie was going to be a young bride but she couldn’t even explain to her fiance what she was going to look like at the end of all of her breast reconstruction surgeries. Outraged by the lack of resources Debbie set out to make sure that the next young woman diagnosed with breast cancer would not have to undergo the experience without visuals and some sort of patient guide. Debbie found a photographer and modeled for pictures throughout her chemotherapy and reconstruction and today Debbie’s book Myself: Together Again is in cancer centers and hospitals all over the world.
In graduate school we were taught to be advocates for people. We were told that if a program or policy does not exist to make people’s lives better than as social workers we need to change policy and create programs- Debbie did just that. Now Debbie has 2 young children and her book has gained so much momentum that Debbie hardly makes time for herself. I live across the country from Debbie and we miss each other terribly. When I talk to Debbie she is sometimes down because there is not time to take care of herself and she is now in early menopause due to having to get her ovaries out as a preventative measure so now more than ever Debbie needs support in managing the early menopause issues. I really hope that you will consider Debbie for this new program and I hope that we can be together celebrating her 10 years with a much deserved focus on HER!
March 2014 Recipient
Phyllis — Chicago, IL
Read the nomination Phyllis' friend Julie submitted:
Phyllis and her husband are rabbis who have 4 young children. 18 months ago, their second oldest child, Sam, was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 7. He underwent aggressive treatment and finally went into remission. Sadly, the remission was short-lived and Sam underwent more treatment in preparation for a bone marrow transplant. Early signs after the BMT looked promising but Sam again relapsed a couple of months later, at which point the Sommers were told there was nothing else they could do for Sam. Sam tragically died in December 2013.
My reason for nominating Phyllis is not simply because she's lived her own personal hell for almost 2 years, although that would have been enough. Despite her all-consuming responsibilities to Sam and the rest of her family throughout Sam's illness, she continued to support others, including me, and also chronicled her family's personal and painful journey through her blog in a very beautiful, real and often raw way. It's such a tribute to Phyllis that in the midst of every parent's worst nightmare, she was still reaching out to comfort and support others as she'd always done.
I don't know of anyone who is more deserving of the quiet, self-affirming, rejuvenating Miraval experience than Phyllis, nor anyone who would be more appreciative of this gift.