He woke from a coma to find his life had changed. That tragedy would become his calling.
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DAV

Your entire life can change on a dime. For Dave Riley, the culprit was much smaller than that.

As a search-and-rescue swimmer in the Coast Guard, Riley knew there were risks involved in his profession. But it wasn’t a dangerous rescue that led to tragedy. In fact, the risk was completely invisible to the eye.

While Riley was vacationing off the shores of Dauphin Island, Alabama, bacteria in the water led to an infection which eventually turned septic. His body went into shock, and he fell into a coma. When he woke up three months later, he found all four of his limbs had been amputated in order to save his life.


“The way I felt when I first woke up from the coma was, I would say, despair and anguish … my whole body was falling apart,” he says. “[There was] that initial period of not wanting to be here.”

Recovery would take time, first in a hospital and then rehab. The infection dissipated, but his body was burned as a result and he was in incredible pain. He also had to learn how to live with these disabilities that he was in no way prepared for.

Thankfully, he had people in his life who carried him through those difficult months.

His wife Yvonne was there by his side through it all. Even perfect strangers, like a woman who read scripture to him in the hospital on a difficult night, and local veterans who were similarly disabled, helped restore him little by little.

But, ultimately, it was DAV (Disabled American Veterans) that helped him turn things around.

When Riley began struggling with depression after rehab, dissatisfied with his career and feeling aimless, his local chapter sent him to the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. It was there that adaptive gear enabled him to ski downhill. The thrill reignited him in a way he hadn’t felt in a long time.

“You get some adrenaline back,” he says. “It kinda makes you feel more alive.”

By finding a community and support system through DAV, and a newfound passion for adaptive sports, Riley started to feel like himself again.

And he wanted to find a way to give back to the organization that had given him so much, so he started volunteering for them.

As he rose through the nonprofit's leadership ranks, he had a profound impact on other disabled veterans and their families; in him, they’d found a kindred spirit and an example of resilience to follow.

That’s when Riley’s life changed again, this time, for the better. The organization that supported him in recovery wanted him to lead them.

His fellow veterans at DAV unanimously elected Riley to be their national commander, which he took on with the same enthusiasm he’d become known for. The role allowed him to travel and represent the organization at conferences and events, touching the lives of countless veterans and their families.

He testified in Congress on behalf of other veterans in February 2017, emphasizing the importance of supporting caregivers of severely disabled veterans. He even ate breakfast with the president in the White House.

And while serving his community was an incredible honor, it helped him just as much as it did them.

“When I was in my bouts of depression, it really helped me to be able to go out and help another person,” he continues. “You get a lot more back.”

Veterans helping veterans

After losing his limbs to an immune response, this vet dedicated his life to helping other disabled veterans.

Posted by Upworthy on Wednesday, July 11, 2018

It’s a calling that Riley continues to answer now that he’s a mentor to other injured veterans.

Riley is able to show struggling veterans the possibilities that exist for them, and how they might live life on their own terms. These veterans also find healing in connection and community — the same kind of community that helped Riley get through his darkest hours.

“For them to see somebody else out there, doing things, it kind of clicks in their mind, just like it did with me,” he explains. “That, ‘hey, he can do it, I can do it.’ . . . that’s my calling.” Moments like those, he says, remind him that he has something truly vital to offer others.

Riley has since taken up woodworking as well, a passion he was convinced he wouldn’t be able to return to, using equipment that is now adapted for his prosthetics. He invites other disabled veterans into his shop, and together, they construct beautiful wooden boxes to offer other veterans and their supporters.

It’s a unique gesture, but more importantly, it’s a tangible reminder that no veteran has to take on civilian life alone.

When tragedy strikes, everything can change. But it’s up to us what we do next.

When we’re staring down the impossible, we’re faced with a choice — we can sink or we can swim. Just like in his early days in the Coast Guard, when up against the unthinkable, Riley rose to the occasion.

For injured and disabled veterans facing the frightening unknowns of civilian life, Riley’s resilience offers hope. And if his story shows us anything, it’s that hope is one of the most powerful gifts we can give another person.

“It really allows me to have a sense of purpose in my life,” he says. “I think there's no greater calling.”

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

via Forbes / YouTube

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, 18, gave a blistering critique to a House of Representatives panel on Thursday, focusing on the country's fossil fuel subsidies.

Thunberg appeared virtually at the two-day Earth Day summit where the Biden Administration announced its pledge to slash U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030.

Thunberg has become an international climate icon after delivering impassioned speeches to the United Nations and inspiring the largest climate change protest in history in 2019.

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2020 was difficult (to say the least). The year was full of life changes, losses, and lessons as we learned to navigate the "new normal." You may have questions about what the changes and challenges of 2020 mean for your taxes. That's where TurboTax Live comes in, making it easy to connect with real tax experts to help with your taxes – or even do them for you, start to finish.

Not only has TurboTax Live helped millions of people get their taxes done right, but this year they've also celebrated people who uplifted their communities during a difficult time by surprising them with "little lifts" to help out even more.

Here are a few of their stories:


Julz, hairdresser and salon owner

"As a hairdresser and salon owner, 2020 was extremely challenging," says Julz. "Being a hairdresser has historically been a recession-proof industry, but we've never faced global shut down due to health risk, or pandemic, not in my lifetime. And for the first time, hairdressers didn't have job security."

Julz had to shut down her salon and go on unemployment benefits for the first time. She also had to figure out how she was going to support herself, her staff and her business during this difficult time. But many other beauty industry professionals didn't have access to the resources they needed, so Julz decided to help.

"My business partner and I began teaching basic financial literacy to other beauty industry professionals," she says. "Transitioning our business from behind the chair to an online academy was a challenge we tackled head-on so that we could move hairdressers into this new space of education, and create a more accessible curriculum to better serve our industry.

Julz connected with a TurboTax Live expert who helped her understand how unemployment affected her taxes and gave her guidance on filing quarterly estimated taxes for her small business. "I was terrified to sit at a computer and tackle this mess of receipts," Julz says, so "it was great to have some virtual handholding to walk me through each question."

In addition to giving Julz the personalized tax advice she needed, TurboTax Live surprised her with a "little lift" that empowered her to help even more beauty professionals. "When my tax expert Diana surprised me with a little lift, I was moved to tears," says Julz. "With that little lift, I was able to establish a scholarship fund to help get other hairdressers the education they deserve."


Alana, new mom

Alana welcomed her first child in 2020. "I think my biggest challenge was figuring out how to be a mom, with no guidance," she says. "My original plan was to have my mom by my side, teaching me the ropes, but because of COVID, she wasn't able to come out here."

She was also without a job for most of 2020 and struggled to find something new.

So, Alana took it as a sign: she decided to launch her own business so she could support her new baby, and that's exactly what she did. She started a feel-good company that specializes in creating affirmation card decks — and she's currently in the process of starting a second, video-editing business.

TurboTax Live answered Alana's questions about her taxes and gave her some much-needed advice as she prepared to launch her businesses. Thanks to their "little lift," they provided her with a little emotional support too.

"I got my mom a plane ticket to finally [have her] meet [my daughter] for her first birthday," Alana says. "I was also able to get a new computer," which helped her invest in her new business and work on her video editing skills. "It's helped my family and me so much," she says.


Michael, science teacher

When schools shut down across the country last year, Michael had to learn how to adapt to a virtual classroom.

"As a teacher, I had to completely revamp everything," he says, so that he could keep his students engaged while teaching online. "At the beginning, it was a nightmare because I had no idea. I had to go from A-Z within a couple of weeks."

Michael's TurboTax Live expert answered his questions about how working from home affected his taxes and helped him uncover surprising tax deductions. To top it all off, his expert surprised him with brand new science equipment and supplies, which allowed him to create an entire line of classes on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. "Now I can truly potentially reach millions of children with my lessons," he says. "I would never have taken that leap if not for the little lift from TurboTax Live."



Ricky, motivational youth speaker

As a motivational speaker, Ricky was used to doing his job in person, but, he says, "when COVID-19 hit, it altered my ability to travel and visit schools in person [because] schools moved to fully virtual or hybrid models."

He knew he had to pivot — so he began offering small virtual group workshops for student leadership groups at middle and high schools.

"This allowed me to work with student leaders to plan how they would continue making a positive impact on their school community," he says. He wasn't sure how being remote would affect his taxes, but TurboTax Live Self-Employed gave him the advice and answers that he needed to keep more money in his pocket at tax time — and the little lift he received from them has helped him serve even more students.

"[It] has been a major blessing," he says "There will be multiple schools and student groups from across the country that I can hold leadership workshops with to empower them with the tools to be inspirational leaders in their school, community, and world."

Plus, he says, it was great knowing he had an expert to help him figure out how being remote affected his taxes. "I felt confident and assured in the process of filing my taxes knowing I had an expert working with me, says Ricky. "There were things my expert knew that I would not have considered when filing on my own."

Filing your taxes doesn't have to be intimidating, especially after a year like 2020. TurboTax Live experts can give you the "little lift" you need to get your taxes done. File with the help of an expert or let an expert file for you! Go to TurboTax Live to get started.