In the Burlington County Times article “Cinnaminson girl shares story filled with joy and sadness“, staff writer Todd McHale tells the story of an 11 year old girl who uses her network television appearance to spread awareness for traumatic brain injury, or TBI. 11 year old Lily Nichols had the opportunity to compete on the first ever children’s competition on Food Network’s popular show Chopped. Nichols’ father fell off a ladder and has been dealing with the effects of a TBI. Shortly before the taping, Lily’s father passed away.
“She’s an amazing, amazing spirit,” her mother said. “It was really about her making her dad proud and bringing attention to his illness.”
Lily said her 45-year-old father was a special person.
“He made you feel calm and comforted and no matter what, he didn’t judge you,” Lily said.
“My dad is very close to my heart. And I wanted to make him proud by giving the world, like, a little experience of what he was like.”
This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as well as my business partner’s. Jen and I met in NYC in June of 2006, and we initially bonded over a common love of music. That bond deepened through shared losses. In the article referenced above, Todd McHale mentions that “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers traumatic brain injury as a serious public health problem in the United States, contributing to 30 percent of all injury deaths. In 2010, 2.5 million traumatic brain injuries occurred, either as an isolated injury or along with other injuries.” Unfortunately, Jen and I have both been effected by that statistic in very personal ways.
Read more to hear our story. Have you or a loved one been impacted by TBI? Share your stories or leave a comment! Also feel free to share other charities that you support!
In 1998, my mother was in a boating accident that resulted in a TBI. She had a plethora of symptoms and issues that developed as a result of her TBI. I watched her struggle to cope with major changes in memory, crippling headaches, extreme sensitivity to light, among other issues. She sought out medical help and was largely brushed off by the medical community as making her symptoms up. They told her “It’s all in your head.” Well, yes it was in her head, and it hurt a lot. Not a lot was known about TBI then, and there is still a lot to learn about our brain. It took my mother years to retrain her brain and learn to do things differently. She has no one around her who understood what she was going through. She finally found an online community for traumatic brain injury survivors and their friends and family, and I believe that support group got her through the worst part of her journey.
On November 18, 2004, I suffered tremendous loss when my beloved cousin, Lauren Marie Parker, was involved in a tragic car accident in Mechanicsville, Virginia. She passed away the following day of massive head trauma at the age of 16. It was easily the worst day of my life.
On June 14, 2012, nearly six years to the day after we met, two of Jen’s beloved teenage cousins were traveling through Grainger County, Tennessee when they, too, were involved in a devastating car accident. Jared Michael Parker, 17, and his sister, Jordyn Hope, 16, both sustained massive head trauma and internal injuries in the crash.
Nearly two and a half years later, Jordyn continues to slowly recover from her injuries. Jared’s body bravely fought a hard battle for six long months, but he passed away on December 20, 2012 at the age of 18. We continue to be devastated over the loss of our dear cousins. We lean on each other daily for mutual support.
While we know nothing can bring Jared and Lauren back or ever replace them, we also know that there can be a much greater good to such sadness. Lauren’s funeral saw 252 people respond to an altar call and Jared and Jordyn’s accident brought an entire community together to host a benefit concert and raise nearly $9,000.00 for their medical care.
Eerily, our cousins share the same last name, the grandmother that we share with our sets of cousins are both named Barbara, they were the same age, and both had car crashes. They are not related.
Having been so personally impacted by traumatic brain injuries in our lives, we want to help spread awareness about the impact of brain injuries, and help support institutions that provide rehabilitation to people suffering TBIs. You can sustain a TBI from a seemingly minor bump on the head. Football players commonly sustain TBIs, even starting at young ages. I think its important to educate people about the consequences of not wearing helmets on bikes, motorcycles, skateboards etc. No one expects to have an accident, and the simple act of wearing protective head gear can literally save your life.
Jen and I will be launching our company, Amyjen Entertainment, with a benefit concert in Nashville this December. We will be donating 100% of our proceeds to charity. We will be donating at least 50% to The Shepard Center in Atlanta, where her cousins were treated after their accident. The other 50% will go to the charity of our headliner’s choice. We want to create magical memories for people, with unique live music events, and make a living sharing our passion. Giving back will be a priority for us, and maybe along the way it will help save some lives, and help rebuild others.
Again, we would love to hear your story! Comments welcomed!