Volunteer Highlight: Christina Dovico

“My B.R.A.I.N. Story”

It begins in the Fall of 2011, I was a Speech & Language Pathology student of our one and only, Angela Mandas, at California State University, Long Beach. Angela had already crossed paths with our founder, Sue Rueb, and they began to collaborate. Angela shared with her students about this exciting new nonprofit she was working with and asked if any of her students would be interested in volunteering. Growing up with my mom’s challenges stemming from her various traumatic brain injuries and having a deep passion not only for the field of Speech & Language Pathology but more importantly a deep passion for serving the needs of others and giving with a glad heart, this seemed like a win-win. Boy oh boy was I right! From my very first F.B.I. meeting in the overflow sanctuary room at Cornerstone Church in Long Beach I was captivated and so very inspired by every single one of our survivors and by the overall feeling of being a part of a family unit. I knew that at some point I needed to find a way to get my mom involved in this inspiring family. Two years of my sharing stories and my experiences of being a constant volunteer with B.R.A.I.N. paid off. My sweet mom, Jennie Dovico, attended F.B.I.’s 2013 Christmas Party and she has been attending F.B.I. on Tuesday nights, the Cognitive Therapy class, Yoga classes, and other various B.R.A.I.N. events ever since. Since then my dad, Keith Dovico, has also joined our B.R.A.I.N. family as a volunteer and supporter of B.R.A.I.N. and loves the organization just as passionately as my mom and I do.
One of the first of many inspiring survivors I met when I first started to volunteer at B.R.A.I.N. was a gentleman by the name of Ray Hillard. Ray had one of the brightest smiles and such a joyful spirit. He was also the very first survivor that my mom met on her first visit to B.R.A.I.N. and made her feel immediately comfortable. Ray was also the first of many incredible survivors to capture my heart with his inspiring and courageous stories of his traumatic brain injuries. I continue to be so very honored and humbled by each story shared where each survivor is paving a new road to regaining their sense of independence, self-love, drive, joy, and acceptance. To witness a survivor who couldn’t enjoy the simple pleasure of eating their favorite food or drink because their swallowing muscles were compromised in their brain injury, to being able to safely chew, swallow and thoroughly enjoy eating and drinking or to witness a survivor who for years lost the ability to engage in a conversation, be able to not only engage but truly contribute to and carry on a conversation…these were very inspiring events. Witnessing these incredible achievements along with the endless opportunities to learn from and grow with our survivors whether it be creating a new memory at one of our various outings (Long Beach Aquarium, Santa Ana Zoo, OC Fair, to name a few) or seeing how far they have come in the various types of therapies they are receiving at B.R.A.I.N., are some of the simple joys that continue to fill my love tank and keep me coming back to B.R.A.I.N.

Everyone at B.R.A.I.N. is such an integral part of what makes everything run. Our Founder & President, Sue, whose vision will continue to keep us moving forward; our F.B.I. Facilitator and Speech Therapist, Angela who helps us come out of our comfort zone; our Speech Therapist, Lynn whose patience is unwavering; our CFO, Joan who always leads by example; our Director of Operations, Jana who seamlessly handles all of our fundraisers, and our exceptional volunteers, (Allison, Danielle, Mai, Garrett, Jon, Sarah, Pearl, Jane, Ken, Daniel, Emily, Tammy, Stephanie, Tom, Anita, Steve, and many others) whose dedication to B.R.A.I.N. is overflowing and a continual blessing, give me inspiration every week.

B.R.A.I.N.’s atmosphere is that of fun, acceptance, openness & honesty, love, respect, inspiration, and creativity. This type of atmosphere allows for each member of our B.R.A.I.N. family to be themselves and contribute their strengths to B.R.A.I.N. I’ve had the amazing opportunity to be a part of the Brain Cell Connector Program where I was partnered with a female survivor, and for over 4 years we have enjoyed learning and growing in our friendship together. I’ve had the incredible opportunity to co-coordinate one of our programs, Brain Angels, where I facilitated a series of workshops designed specifically for the caregivers of brain-injured individuals to encourage, educate, and provide them with support. I continue to have the blessed opportunity to co-coordinate B.R.A.I.N.’s Social Events where we create events that allow our survivors to enjoy social outings that either they’ve not been able to enjoy since their brain injury or have never experienced and they get to do so with the acceptance and support of their B.R.A.I.N. family. These events create an opportunity for survivors to build on their social skills with their fellow survivors and B.R.A.I.N. family, build on their daily life and independence skills in keeping track of the events details. With each one of the volunteer/leadership roles I have been bestowed, it has and continues to be an unbelievable honor and a true blessing to be a part of such an admirable organization. The unconditional love, understanding, compassion, positivity, inspiring testimonies, and more importantly, resilience, are some of the ingredients that pour into B.R.A.I.N. allowing it to flourish and continue to help the lives of brain-injured survivors, as well as contributing to the brain-injured community.

B.R.A.I.N. has been a second home for me, is a second family to me, has been an environment where myself, my mom and my dad have been able to heal from the pain and hurt that we have experienced and continue to deal with because of my mom’s brain injuries. B.R.A.I.N. has enhanced my perspective on life and what it truly means to live, love, be hopeful and happy in the simplest of ways. Life is so very precious. Let’s remember to enjoy each day, celebrate each win, and embrace the challenges as all adversity will only make us that much stronger.

As B.R.A.I.N. continues to grow and grow it’s so very exciting to welcome so many new members to our B.R.A.I.N. family. Please, please, please come up to me and introduce yourself, as I very much want to get to know each one of you.

I look forward to making new lasting memories with you all at F.B.I.

Blessings,

Christina Dovico