Nurse Helps Children, and Her Country, Too

St. Mary’s Home is proud to be among the organizations featured in the 2011 Combined Federal Campaign Book, which you can see online here. Below is an article, submitted by St. Mary’s, that was included in the campaign book, which is distributed on area military bases.

Tara Dean, a primary nurse at St. Mary’s Home, with Kishaun. 

By Sonja Barisic, St. Mary’s marketing communications manager

WhileIraq conducted national elections in March 2010, Sgt. Tara Dean providedmedical care for Iraqi police officers and soldiers and even their families asshe worked out of a police station that week. She also treated a police officerwho had been wounded by a sniper.

ForDean, a 37-year-old medic in the Virginia Army National Guard, helping peopleis all in the line of duty.
Helping people also is her main mission in her civilian job. She’s a primary nurse atthe nonprofit St. Mary’s Home for Disabled Children, where young people fromacross Virginia who have severe intellectual and physical disabilities live, play andgo to school. Staff like Dean provide comprehensive,around-the-clockcare for as many as 92 children and young adults ages newborn to 21 years. Nextyear, St. Mary’s plans to expand care to adults, including the Home’sgraduates, by opening a wing with 12 private rooms.

When it comes to the military, St. Mary’s Home has a long tradition of servingfamilies through the U.S. Armed Forces Exceptional Family Member Program, whilemilitary members like Dean strengthen the staff. Service members also volunteerto do projects at the Home and for special events, like St. Mary’s annual 5Kfundraiser, this year on Oct. 1 in Norfolk’s East Beach neighborhood.

Dean decided to go into nursing,just as her grandmother did, to “help people when they really need compassion,when they really need somebody there.” A licensed practical nurse, Dean isstudying to become a registered nurse.

Deanespecially likes caring for children and said she finds it uplifting to workwith the children at St. Mary’s Home. “I knew that they have special needs,”she said. “They have their own special place in life, too.”

Dean’s desire to help also led her to join the National Guard to support her country.She deployed in 2009 with the Virginia Beach-based 229th MilitaryPolice Company. She spent much of the 13-month tour on federal active duty inIraq, completing more than 40 missions as a field medic.

While in Iraq, Dean cared for a stray five-week-old kitten whose mother had died. Shehad cans of tuna shipped to her from back home so she could feed the kitten.Slowly, the wild kitten she named Freedom began to let her pet him and she knewshe couldn’t leave him there. SPCA International helped Dean get the kitten toher home in Chesapeake. “The cat made it home before I did.”

Dean’s desire to help others continues when she’s off-duty as well. She’s becomeparticularly close to Kishaun, one young resident of St. Mary’s. She takes himon field trips, most recently to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, and she broughthim to her home to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family.

Dean nnow is assigned to the Medical Command at Fort Pickett in Blackstone, Va. Shetravels there one weekend a month and two weeks a year. She said her trainingand experience in the military has made her a better nurse. “It makes youappreciate the little things the kids can do so much more,” she said. “SinceI’ve come back, every little thing that they can do, it will bring tears to myeyes.”

St.Mary’s Home for Disabled Children

CFC# 10064

Go, Kishaun, Go

Kishaun really loves to move.

Once seated on an adaptive tricyle, 10-year-old Kishuan zooms up and down the corridors of St. Mary’s Home so quickly that his therapists sometimes have trouble keeping up with him. 

Like most of the children who live at the Home, Kishaun uses a wheelchair. He also can walk, with assistance, for short distances. Pedaling on the tricycle helps him walk by warming up his legs and strengthening his muscles — all while he’s having a blast.

“Kishaun just wants his independence,” said physical therapist assistant Lynn Regna. “The trike is a way for him to just go.”

Kishaun is one of about 15 children at St. Mary’s who now regularly ride a tricycle as part of their physical therapy. The seats and handlebars are easy to configure to give each child a comfortable ride. While the child grips the bars and pedals, a therapist uses controls on the back to steer.

Through the generosity of supporters, the Auxiliary Board of St. Mary’s Home was able to donate funds for the Home to buy two of these tricycles.

The Auxiliary’s 5th Annual Gala and Auction to raise money for the children of St. Mary’s Home will take place Saturday, Feb. 20, at 6 p.m. at The Westin Town Center in Virginia Beach. To reserve tickets, donate, volunteer or request sponsorship information, contact Karen Hibbard at (757) 622-2208 ext. 331 or send her an email