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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.

Jennifer Rockwood

Jennifer — Dream Foundation 

Read the Dream Foundation letter:

I am writing to ask you to grant a dream for Jennifer Rockwood. Jennifer was diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in the fall of 2014. She has already survived her initial life expectancy of 6 months, and her current diagnosis suggests that she will not last more than a few months. She is no longer eligible for treatment and has been placed under our care at hospice.

Jennifer's dream is for her and her best friend to go to Miraval Resort and Spa in Tucson, Arizona.In addition to being known for their "girl's getaways," Miraval prides itself on its dedication to wellness and spiritual healing. It is a place of calm and comfort that Jennifer has always wanted to visit, but has never been able to afford. In addition, her sudden illness forced Jennifer to take early retirement from teaching (a job that she both loved and excelled at); causing a financial hardship that resulted in the foreclosure of her home. She has since moved into an apartment while her home goes to public auction.

Despite these heartbreaking hardships, Jennifer is truly one of the most caring, charismatic, and wonderful people you will ever met. She has been a teacher of theatre who has for many years acted, written, and directed in community plays, and for years has served as mentor to young people, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. She always has a bright smile on her face and a mischievous glint in her eye. When it comes to the unanswerable question of why does cancer seem to strike the most vibrant, good people, I cannot think of anyone more exemplary than Jennifer. Moreover, her desire to share it with her close friend Jeanne, who has been with her to laugh and cry through all of this, is evidence of how important it is to her to share as much time as she has left with those closest to her. Jennifer loves life and still tries to live it to her fullest. She would fully appreciate and be deeply grateful for this dream to come true.

As a hospice worker who knows Jennifer well, I am whole-heartedly in support of her dream. If it is possible for this to come together in the near future, I also believe that she is still in a stage where she will still be well enough to travel and to enjoy it. She is certainly deserving of any joy that might come her way, and this would make her exceedingly happy despite her unbelievably difficult situation.


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.


Paula — Dublin, OH

Read the nomination letter Paula's friend Alice submitted:

I am writing to whole-heartedly nominate Paula Campagni. Paula is a wonderful woman, wife, mother to 3 beautiful children – Nicholas age 12, Rino 8 (special needs), and Gianna 7, and Psychotherapist. Paula came highly recommended as a therapist for my teenage daughter, Jessica. At the young age of 17, Jessica has already experienced tremendous loss in her life. She needed someone with whom she felt comfortable sharing her feelings. She found that with Paula and they’ve developed a wonderful relationship where Jessica feels safe, supported and understood.

Recently, Paula was diagnosed with stage 3 Invasive Breast Cancer. She remains positive almost forbidding her life to be “interrupted”. Paula continues to work and see patients even though her treatment often leaves her very ill. She actually discovered her tumor while talking with me on the phone about my daughter. Paula is always on the go, but took a moment to slow down and have an unscheduled conversation. Although she didn’t share her finding with me at that time, I sensed a distraction enter our conversation. Later, she described the experience as actually having a feeling of someone pushing on her breast to get her attention. She adjusted her bra in response, but again another strong feeling of someone physically “poking” her breast exactly where the tumor happened to be. She was in her bathroom at the time, which ironically is a room where her son, Rino (special needs), says at times he sees his grandma, who has passed.

Paula lost her own mother in a car accident at a young age and was cared for by her grandmother, who swore to always take care of her. There’s no doubt for Paula she continued that care that day. I pray she recovers for herself, her family, her loved ones, and selfishly, for my daughter who needs and loves her too. I’m certain many thoughts, worries, regrets, concerns for her family and patients all plague her mind. She’s tired and feels sick, but is driven to carry on for those who depend on her. Her strength and determination are astonishing and necessary for this journey. I have been to Miraval and know how nurturing it can be. I had hoped Paula, myself and my daughter could visit together, but that’s not financially possible. However, the three of us will always be bound together because of that phone call. I urgently ask you to consider Paula for this program. She is a spiritual person and needs an opportunity to renew her faith and strength, rejuvenate and reconnect with herself and loved ones passed who most certainly are watching over her. She needs to be in a place where she can gather all her courage for what is certain to be a long road ahead. Thank you for your consideration.


Casey - New Orleans, LA 

Read the nomination letter Casey's husband Jason submitted:

On December 21, 2011, the day before my wife’s brother’s birthday and 4 days before Christmas, my wife’s father took his own life. He left a wake of heartache and emotional turmoil for all of his family and close friends. Having her father end his life made her second-guess her whole life and has put her in a place where she has had to make very difficult decisions about her own life. My wife, Casey, has chosen to use her father’s death to push her to make drastic changes in her life and in those around her. She has made it her main focus to try and help others live a healthier, more fulfilled life. She is a dedicated health coach and personal trainer, striving to help others live a happy, healthy life. She has also started a business, Happy Soul Apparel, in memory of her father and uncle, and donates a portion of sales to non-profit organizations that support mental health.
As if the suicide of the loving man that raised her was not enough, Casey lost her Grandmother three months to the day of her father’s death. Putting her own anguish aside, she consoled her family for the months to follow. About twelve months later, Casey’s dad’s brother took his own life also, reestablishing all of the horrific memories of the night her father died. Not that she needed to be reminded, because every waking second of her life since that night, she has mourned the death of her father. 
In the midst of all of the tragedy and death within a two year period, my wife has somehow held not only herself together, but has also been the glue that has held our entire family together. Putting her own pain and affliction to the back of her mind, Casey has not had time to herself to truly grieve the passing of her family members.
On December 17, 2013, my wife gave birth to our beautiful baby girl. Marley is now 14 months old and her mother has been the best mother any little girl could have. She is tender, loving, giving and selfless. Being able to put on a smiling face around her daughter and others while having the horrific memories of the deaths of her close family members has truly shown me how strong my courageous wife is. She deserves some time to herself to try to continue her journey towards a more fulfilled life. Casey’s father took his own life, and part of her heart that night, but she is determined not to let these unthinkable acts tarnish the rest of her family’s lives.


Lynda Christel

Lynda - Chandler, AZ

Read the nomination letter Lynda's friend Joan submitted:

Lynda Christel, truly deserves to be a Miraval Gives Back Recipient, not only being a working mother of three children, one of which sons, Colten, who has Down Syndrome, requiring that going the extra mile, and Caden a true young techy, and his sister Carsyn Shea, an athletic enthusiast, keep her totally occupied. Her constant challenges, maintaining full-time employment, as a Director of Physicians Relations of Phoenix Children’s Hospital, having created the first Pediatric Down Syndrome clinic in Phoenix, along with annually hosting seminars with doctors/nurses, and volunteers at PCH for anyone to attend which recipients comes from all over the state of Arizona and throughout the country to be a part of this education seminar and sharing of Down Syndrome. She, personally, has shared her own story of receiving the news of a child with Down syndrome. She is an advocate for educational advancement and equality, participating in school endeavors for all of her children. Being a chairperson for the Arizona Special Olympics Breakfast of Champions, her insights have brought awareness and raised funds for people with special needs.

She has committed herself to her family, her marriage to Rob Christel, and her work. Lynda tarries not, nor complains; see the positives in each and every situation and follows through with her commitment levels. She is so deserving of a “Give Back” for she never asks for anything, could certainly use the time for herself.

She is a true inspiration to all she meets, with a smile, and friendliness with caring.  [Story - As we were finishing lunch in the PCH cafe, a young woman, with two young children and her own mother were walking through the lobby of PCH. The youngest child, a son, who has Down Syndrome, was crying as the mother was holding him, the other child, walking alongside of his grandmother, and Lynda SPOTS them. She immediately approaches the mother and family members with a huge smile, saying warm welcomes and starts speaking to the littlest child who looks up and laughs. The mother surprised, looking harried, turns and talks with Lynda at which point explains how she drove several long hot hours to PCH from Yuma to this new clinic for help for there was nothing close by. She was ever so thankful and grateful to Lynda. It’s this sharing and caring reason for others that she so deservers this time for her at Miraval.


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’.


brett carter

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.


debbie horwitz miraval gives back

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!


phyllis sommer miraval gives back

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.