“Many people fall through the cracks of society” says Trish Morris, President & CEO of Courageous Faces Foundation. And so Morris has made it her lifelong mission to meet with as many of the people who have medical conditions from genetics, traumatic injuries, auto-immune diseases, allergic reaction or other causes… with a pledge to do what she can to share their stories, build awareness and assess what it would take to improve their quality of life. She then relentlessly goes after the solution to help. Whether it’s Maria with Lamellar Ichthyosis (a genetic and chronic skin disease), Reggie with severe Neurofibromatosis (a condition characterized by growth of tumors along nerves in the skin, brain, and other parts of the body), Cassidy with Conradi Hunermann Syndrome (a form of dwarfism that affects the long bones on only one side of the body), John a burn survivor (survived life-threatening burns on 97% of his body as a young child) or KJ who developed Stevens-Johnsons Syndrome (after being burned, he was given an antibiotic and because of an allergic reaction, it basically burned him from the inside out ), these are just some of the rare conditions people can learn about as well as some that are well known like Down syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis… the heartbreaking stories - and remarkable humans who suffer - are all out there.
Trish explains: “When there is a gap in services to help people whose lives are impacted with these sometimes debilitating conditions, we are there.” Morris also reaches out to many of the national organizations and attends numerous conferences related to these conditions to see what can be done to help these courageous human beings find some balance in their lives and not be defined by their disability. Trish adds: "We just want to do as much as we possibly can for them.”
Morris previously worked for Wells Fargo Advisors where she served as Associate Vice President and Portfolio Manager. After 25 years in the financial services industry, Morris retired in order to pursue her passion for helping individuals with disabilities. Assisted by her brother, Bill, and his wife, Roxy, Trish is the driving force behind Courageous Faces for individuals with special needs and their families. (Morris has also volunteered with Special Olympics Colorado, The John Lynch Foundation and Rocky Mountain Down Syndrome Association, just to name a few).
Trish says: "Courageous Faces Foundation is working to show that everyone is a person first and foremost." Over one billion people worldwide live with a disability (which Morris prefers to call a medical condition) that keeps them from living their best life. Morris notes: “So much of bullying is caused by ignorance, fear or attitudes passed down. Many people with a medical condition, disability or difference still feel they are invisible, not part of society. Part of our mission is to build awareness and acceptance. Every month, we have a section called “Faces of the Foundation” which features a person with a medical condition who shares their story about who they are as a person and about living with that medical condition. They share what they want people to know about them and what they want others to understand. It is very powerful for them and the people who read their story. I, and or one of my wonderful staff, will meet with them and their family to get to know them. If it is at their home, we assess what would improve the quality of their life right now as well as that of their family.”
Seven years ago, Trish's athletic husband, Rick, got very sick after two bouts with pneumonia. Ironically, Rick, who is now disabled, walks wih a cane, and spends much of his day in bed due to his debilitating symptoms. Along with running a new foundation, Trish and Rick are driven to find answers on how he can regain his health.
Trish is so caring and good-hearted, she feels the pain of the people she helps. Her passion for people with all disabilities & special needs impressed me with how genuine it is. Trish Morris is passionate in every way to do what she can to significantly turn the lives of these people around so they can live a better life.
When I asked Trish Morris “What she wanted people to know about her?” Her response was: “I am an optimist, always looking for the good in people and situations. Love helping, giving to others and making people happy, and it’s become my life-long mission...”
Trish, for many years you have been involved with people who have disabilities, did you have a family member with disabilities?
No, in fact I never really knew anyone with disabilities until during my career as a financial advisor I signed up to volunteer with Special Olympics Colorado. When you’re dealing in the stock market and with people’s money there is a lot of pressure, so volunteering really helped me keep perspective on what truly mattered in life. It was also something that Rick & I could do together that we both loved. I learned that no matter how much money a person had or how many material things they owned, in the end, what really mattered was how they treated others. A bad day in the stock market was completely forgotten when I was with the Special Olympic athletes and their families.
What made you decide to start Courageous Faces Foundation?
I wanted to do something to improve the daily lives of people who have a physical or intellectual disability and to bring awareness about their medical condition.
What do you most appreciate since starting the foundation?
Besides my brother & his wife for helping me start the foundation, my wonderful staff, our board of directors, all of the support from family and friends, I am truly so grateful and thankful for our donors and supporters. All of the people who have donated funds, the companies that have donated services, volunteers who give their time, those who have given guidance, and the many who sent encouragement along the way. It is because of them that we are able to do this amazing work and improve people’s lives. We could not do any of this without the generosity of others.
Tell us about your remarkable Board of Directors?
We have an amazing Board of Directors who are dedicated, so supportive and help drive our mission. Many of our board members have a medical condition themselves, so they understand the importance of what we do and the people we serve.
Can you tell us what you are finding out when you visit the homes of the people you serve?
Some might need very little help while others may have a much greater need such as basic daily living items like new clothing, dental work or household items. It might be attending classes or activities related to their conditions or attending a conference or event. We provide things that will enrich and empower their lives today. What we can’t get donated or discounted, we pay for.
What fundraising events do you have coming up for Courageous Faces Foundation?
Our first inaugural “SUPERHEROES” Gala in Colorado will be on Saturday, October 29, 2016 at the Marriott Denver City Center.
Is there anything you wish you'd done differently so far?
I sometimes wish I had retired earlier from my financial planning business and started my non-profit sooner. As for the foundation, I wish I had hired more people earlier. I think Derek and Dee would agree!
What word describes you best?
Passionate (others might say workaholic)
What was your first job – as a teen?
I was 14 years old and a Pony Ride that was in the parking lot of Villa Italia Mall hired me to take care of the ponies & the kids who wanted to ride them.
I ask most of my married folks this – “What do you think is the secret to wedded bliss?” Rick & I just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary on June 25th. I believe the secret is to realize that marriage, like life, is always changing & evolving. Agree to disagree with your spouse and respect their opinions. Always think before you speak, as hurtful things said can never be taken back. My grandmother always told us that life can change in an instant so never go to bed mad or leave the house angry.
How do we instill the right values in our children – and grandchildren?
Teach them compassion for all living things: people, animals, insects & plants.
Who do you consider your main mentor in life?
My grandmother (my mom’s mother). My parents divorced when I was a baby and my mom was an alcoholic. My grandmother – for much of my life, especially in my teenage years, raised me a lot of the time.
What are your favorite “words of wisdom?
Everybody is a person and everyone has a story that you know nothing about.
When you have time - what are some of your other hobbies or interests?
Anything that has to do with animals – on Sundays, my husband & I take our 3 dogs to Chatfield Reservoir Dog Park. It is the happiest place on earth and like Disneyland for dogs. You can’t be in a bad mood when you’re there!
I love spending time with my sisters Terri & Dee, my brother Bill, sister-in-law Roxy, brother-in-law Steve and all of our nieces & nephews and of course with my bestie Becky, who has been my best friend for over 45 years! (Now that makes me sound old… hahaha)
If you could go anywhere and do anything right now – where and what would it be? Besides running the foundation and meeting amazing people who I have had the opportunity to share in a small part of their lives, I would have to say…
Going where doctors could figure out what is wrong with my husband. He has been ill and undiagnosed for almost 7 years now! He was the healthiest person I knew and now this… it doesn’t make sense. How does someone go from being a marathon runner, fitness trainer and never sick to someone who now walks with a cane, goes to bed at noon, can’t eat, in pain, dizzy and has no quality of life?
What do you see yourself doing 10 years from now?
Continuing the positive impact of Courageous Faces Foundation on people’s lives.
What is a yearly nonprofit event you try not to miss?
Children’s Hospital Gala
Aimee’s Animal Rescue - Fashion to the Rescue - Boston
What is the best advice you have ever received?
There are no guarantees that we have a tomorrow, so enjoy the moments today.
Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
Before my husband got ill we used to take 3 day vacations where the marathon he was running was being held and one of my favorites was the Disney World Marathon. Even though we don’t have kids of our own, we always had so much fun being kids ourselves.
If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?
“Laughter is an Instant Vacation”
Is there a book you have read that really inspired you that you can recommend to others? Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Besides your family, what do you consider a priceless gift?
Besides family, friends and our dogs… Time to do what I love.
What word best describes your life right now?
What is your fondest childhood memory?
Spending time with my grandmother. I treasured being with her, and I always felt safe and loved.
Do you have a quote or saying that has helped guide you through life? “A favorite poem? “Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For, indeed, that’s all who ever have.” Margaret Mead
What do you feel is your greatest strength?
Compassion and connecting with people. I accept everyone for who they are, regardless of what others think or believe. We are all just people, trying to live each day as best we can.
What do you still want to learn how to do?
How do you stay so motivated and committed to your causes?
I love impacting a person’s life and seeing the difference it makes.
What should we all be working on these days to make our country better for future generations? Letting go of anger and realizing everyone has their own thoughts & opinions which may differ greatly from ours. Remember that we are all humans with our own flaws and our own incredible talents & gifts.
How do we get our young people interested in charitable work and giving back to the community? Get them involved in giving as soon as they are walking. Expose them to people and places that are very different from how they live. My niece Leah, for her 16th birthday, asked her friends not to get her presents, but asked that they each bring $10 each to donate to Autoimmune Disease Research in honor of my husband.
What’s in the future for Trish Morris?
That chapter is unwritten, but I have a feeling it will be wonderful and probably include some dancing.
What would you like your legacy to be?
What would you most like to be remembered for? I would like my legacy to have made a positive difference in the lives of others and to make people happy. To be one of the leaders who helped change public perceptions about people with medical conditions to hopefully being seen as JUST PEOPLE!