A Letter from Kelli Judisch

Dear On With Life Supporter,

We knew 2020 was going to be a life-changing year, we just had no idea how much. Because of donors like YOU, I’m able to share the story of my son, Kason. Kason was an extremely accomplished high school senior, set to graduate in May 2020. He was active in music, band, theater, show choir, speech, student organizations
and church group. He had recently auditioned and been selected for an elite musical theater program at Millikin University in Illinois, which he planned to attend in fall 2021.

Then, along came Covid, and everything changed. Even with everything these seniors missed, on May 17, 2020, our school still put on a virtual and “drive-through” graduation so we could celebrate this milestone. 

The day after graduation, Kason was going to try something new and go kayaking with a friend. On the unfamiliar route, Kason was in a terrible car accident and was life-flighted to Gundersen Hospital in Wisconsin. Kason suffered a severe TBI, along with a fractured pelvis, ruptured spleen, damaged kidney and collapsed lung. Thanks to heroic efforts by his neuro and trauma surgery teams, Kason survived. He spent two weeks in the ICU and one additional week in the neuro unit of the hospital in what we now know as a “vegetative state” of consciousness.

This was when we realized Kason wasn’t going to be coming directly home with us. We had to face the reality that he needed specialized medical, nursing and neurological care beyond what we could provide. We looked into several options and felt God was opening all the doors we needed for Kason’s transfer to On With Life.

Kason entered On With Life during an unprecedented time with all the national Covid restrictions that limited visitors, required gowns and masks, and limited group interaction and outside activity. While these restrictions made brain injury rehab exceedingly more difficult, the On With Life staff did not falter. Kason was introduced to his care team. There aren’t words to describe the expertise, compassion, creativity, energy, tears and LOVE they put into Kason—into ALL their persons served! They loved him. They pushed him. They respected and cared for him into the improvement I prayed for every day! Even though the Covid restrictions alone made their jobs exponentially harder, they responded creatively in therapy. From riding bikes indoors, to bringing a piano into Kason’s room, to making alphabet cards with his favorite items—they definitely do NOT have a “one size fits all” approach—everything they did was specifically tailored to Kason and designed with his unique personality and outcomes in mind!

At Christmas, they helped Kason shop for his family and friends. They pulled off this amazing feat by recreating an entire Target store (right down to the Starbucks and the cash registers) inside the Wellness Gym at On With Life. This made Christmas much more special for all!

On March 5, 2021, Kason WALKED out of On With Life and into his next phase of life at home—after all the months of blood, sweat and tears from therapists, nurses, CNAs, drivers, administrators, social workers and ALL the staff.

Before experiencing On With Life myself, someone in the industry told me that the people who work in
the brain injury field are not in it for the money. They choose to show up every single day because of a driving passion to help the people they serve. I saw it myself— these people have the kindest hearts, the strongest + dedication and the most perseverance I’ve ever seen. But unfortunately, big hearts don’t pay bills. And the brain injury field is constantly evolving; resulting in a need for new technology and emerging therapy techniques and tools. Because of the generosity of the On With Life Foundation and donors like YOU, Kason had access to therapy tools such as light boards, a therapeutic music glove and a walking harness which made a profound difference in his progress. He was even having trouble with his eyesight, which the staff recognized may be impacting his balance. So, with the support from the On With Life Foundation Kason was able to see an optometrist who specialized in working with individuals who could not communicate using traditional eye exam methods. Because of that, Kason was able to get the new glasses he needed. 

On With Life has an unmatched balance of experience, expertise and heart. Brain injury is not what we ever expected in our lives, but it happened and it changed us forever. When we came to On With Life, we were given a hope that no one else can give. And we gained a forever family. How can you ever thank so many people for saving your son? We can’t—what we can do is show others the same care, dedication and support we were shown at On With Life.

It is with this that I ask YOU to join me in supporting On With Life’s Empower Hope Fund. Your financial contribution will help persons served in all On With Life programs, the families, like ours, who are experiencing life changes and the incredible staff who support each and every person that walks through the door.

We hope this holiday season you will join us in supporting this organization, because we all know that the holidays are better celebrated together. 

With love and support,

Kelli Judisch