Chasing a check instead of chasing a dream is a dilemma that many people in corporate America face each and every day. Married couple and owners of CrossFit Brigade in Chattanooga, Eric and Emily Griffith, made a decision many would never dare to do. They quit their corporate jobs to follow their shared passion for fitness.
Practice, weights, conditioning, traveling and on top of it all attending classes and maintaining a good grade point average. Unfortunately, college athletes also have to contend with a higher likelihood of developing an eating disorder.
Lauren Baker is a determined, music-loving dance-like-no-one’s-watching freshman on the women’s volleyball team at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. However, it was much earlier on during her freshman year of high school in South Bend, Indiana when she began to struggle with her eating disorder.
It was January 8, 2021, when Brooke Harbula became a victim of gun violence, but that was not the day she gave up her power. After being shot during an armed robbery, Harbula’s physical and mental health have suffered, but that hasn’t stopped her from becoming the person she is today.
“I remember asking the paramedics if I was paralyzed because I couldn’t feel my left leg,” Harbula says. “Then it became a sudden realization of death…and how close I was to it.”
After spending 10 days in critical care, she was sent home to begin her journey toward recovery.
From gardening in prison with Martha Stewart to inspiring women in recovery, Kelli Webber has lived many lives throughout her battle with addiction and substance abuse. Webber has taken her painful past as a former alcoholic and drug user and channeled it into a powerful tool to help others.
Like many others, Brayden Guerrette and his older sister Sydney have had their fair share of their mental health struggles since they were young. Back in their hometown of Portland, Maine, during a very intimate exchange on their kitchen floor, Brayden Guerrette finally opened up to his parents and older sister about his dealings with depression.
“We were just sitting there and he was just in tears, and as someone who is watching a family member and someone that they love go through something like that, it’s always very difficult because you don’t know what to do most of the time,” Sydney says. “All you can really do is be there for them continually.”
After this exchange, the Guerrette family took a leap of faith for the sake of their family’s mental health and sold their house, bought an RV and started their journey across the country in hopes of a healthy, fresh start.
For nearly two years, Marianna Cooper has worried about bringing her work home with her.
As a nurse in the float pool, Cooper has been working around patients with COVID-19 since the pandemic originally began in the U.S. Already, that would be more than enough to gnaw at anyone, but like countless others in her position, she has had more than just herself to worry about.
From the beginning, Cooper’s three children turned her 12-hour night shifts at Parkridge into 24-hour ones as she was faced with the possibility of bringing home the deadly disease every time she walked through her door.
“It’s always in the back of your mind,” she said. “You worry about doing simple things like giving your child a kiss on the cheek because… what if you’d had an exposure and you didn’t realize it, and now I’ve exposed my child.”
Ever since the emergence of COVID-19, times have been hectic for nearly everyone, pushing many people to get creative and find a way to spend their time. Anna Miller and Jerrod Niles discuss their quarantine hobbies and give an inside scoop on how these activities have helped them build their new normal.
Boxes of medical equipment fill Mandy McAllister’s small, quaintly decorated home in Brainerd. There was no preparation for her mother’s diagnosis of metastatic cancer or for her eventual stay in hospice care.
As the machines, slings, and medicine become more necessary the answers become all the more grim. Ushering a loved one through their final days is a task no one is truly ready for, but through family and communication, the McAllister’s stayed together.
“In a matter of two or three days, she went from being pretty healthy—going to garden club, going to church, hanging out with family—to having conversations about going into hospice care,” says Mandy McAllister.
McAllister, an administrative specialist at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, was the primary caretaker for her mother, Susan Reggin, while in hospice care. She was flooded with guilt, grief, and unfamiliar medical responsibilities all at the same time, so she greatly appreciated the support and validation of her family.
Her son, Jacob Paige, speaks on the family’s close connection that only grew stronger through these hardships.
“We communicated as frequently and as in-depth as normal,” says Jacob. “Knowing that it doesn’t matter what’s going to happen, and it doesn’t matter if the cancer is going to get better or worse, we’re still the same people. If she’s got eight months to live or two weeks to live, we are still on the same level all the way through, and that just creates a smooth transition.”
Although death is never an easy confrontation, the McAllisters have felt eternally grateful for their limited, but cherished time with Susan. Mandy’s mother and family were forced to face mortality in a slowed and intimate state.
“This could be the last time I really hug her. Is this going to be the last time she remembers who we are? Is this the last birthday? Is this the last ‘X’—whatever it is,” Mandy said.
Susan Reggin served as a clergywoman for over 30 years. Her philosopher’s brain and her dedication to others was passed down to her family.
“I adored my mom, so everything about me that’s good, I would attribute to my mom,” says Mandy, “I think she gave me tools and a model for how to work with other people. We all carry her around in our hearts.”
Mandy reminisced on those quiet moments, sitting at her mother’s bedside reading old poems and laughing through fading memories.
She smiled thinking about her niece and mother playing with stuffed animals, forgetting about the future. It’s those moments that stay with family till the end. It’s the seconds of quiet, vital peace in the midst of the storm, that they look back on and wish to relive.
Meet The Storyteller
Mark Drinkard has 3 years of experience in student media. From those experiences, he has gained skills as a videographer and video editor. He has used his knowledge of creative tools such as Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, and Audition to make and produce videos and audio projects. He is also adept in his knowledge of lighting, audio recording, and audio editing. Mark Drinkard currently lives in Chattanooga TN as he attends college. Photography is a passion of his and the rural landscapes offer a great backdrop to find and make photos. His goal is to provide a voice to everyone and use his skills to tell the stories of the voiceless. For questions, collaboration or to hire Mark Drinakard, contact him at markdrinkard2@gmail or (865)407-3317