Today we’d like to introduce you to Jamie Gunter.
Jamie, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
A.W.A.R.D House is a non-profit organization I started 4-years ago. A.W.A.R.D means acknowledge the worth and reward the disable. I focus on uplifting and improving the quality of life of individuals with disabilities. I offer life skill development and motivation by providing support, guidance and love. I help with any tools needed to become self-sufficient. I use my testimony as living proof that your disability does not make you. You can still be great with a disability. I upload video blogs on YouTube (Jamie Cato), as a platform to share my story. I also have a page on Facebook where I upload videos and daily motivational messages.
At the age of 24, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. Later that year, I began to experience severe headaches and got really sick. I was in and out of the hospital for months. I had a series of Lumbar Punctures, MIRs, CT scans and several other procedures. January of 2011, I was diagnosed with having pseudotumor cerebri, a non-cancer tumor on the brain. I was also diagnosed with Graves disease, an autoimmune disease caused by hyperthyroid. I underwent radiation treatment to kill the thyroid. In August of that year, I had emergency brain surgery because the pressure and fluid on my brain had tripled within the last month causing me to have papilledema and lose vision. The following year the right VP Shunt they placed in my head had malfunctioned and I was still losing vision so, I had another brain surgery on the 3rd of July.
In a blink of an eye, I lost it all, my vision and life. My life was forever changed, I was no longer Jamie. Everything I wanted for myself and daughter was taken away in that very moment. I went from having confidence and independence to being insecure and an envolent. I became very depressed and started drinking to cope with all the changes I was experiencing. I had to drop out of college and quit my job. I had no way of supporting my child. I was angry and sad all the time. I had many nights where I would just cry myself to sleep. I didn’t understand why this was happening to me. I felt as if I was trapped and I had no way out. I wanted to end my life and I tried to commit suicide by slitting my wrist. As I laid on the bathroom floor, I could hear my father tell me “it’s going to be okay baby, it’s not your time yet”. He saved my life.
I was giving a purpose to live. I went to therapy to learn how to live with being legally blind. Went to some blind support groups. Enrolled back in college and graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in Human Service. I brought a home. Most of all, I started living my best life. Despite all those accomplishments, I struggle with how I was treated by society and how hard it was to achieve those goals. I saw disabled individuals mistreated and did not have the support or love they needed to be happy. So I valid to be an advocate for the disabled population and do whatever it takes to help them as long as I live. Encourage them that they are not their disability and are greater than their disability. And that’s how A.W.A.R.D House was born.
Has it been a smooth road?
Raising two children while being legally blind and starting a non-profit organization can be very challenging. I have a hard time getting people to focus on what I’m talkin about. Trying to find organizations that will allow me to come in and work with individuals with disabilities can be difficult. Most of all just getting the public to watch the video blogs and support the cause is very hard because it seems like people are focused on the wrong things instead of reality. Sometimes I question do people really care about the trials and tribulations we as disabled individuals go through. Do they really care about us and want to help us? But I know one day I will change people’s opinions and the challenges will be well worth it in the end. Because I know my story will help someone like me.
We’d love to hear more about your organization.
The organization provides life skill development. I offer empowerment and self-sufficiency tools, assistance with finding government programs to help with school or job training. I offer talk therapy in order to uplift, build confidence and self-esteem, helping them understand their disabilities helping them set and achieve their goals. The organization helps achieve these goals by face-to-face contact and over the phone. The organization also publishes video blog on YouTube (Jamie Cato), for all individuals to watch. The organization also has a Facebook page (A.W.A.R.D House) where they can check out videos, daily inspirational messages and my contact information.
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Yes, I do believe your city is a great place for my organization in other businesses. LA is a heavily populated city with a versatile population. It has the major influences on how people live their lives. Not to mention it is very beautiful in LA. I know I can reach a lot of people in LA and my organization could prosper.
- Phone: 3134633518
- Email: email@example.com
- Facebook: A.W.A.R.D House
- Other: YouTube channel (Jamie Cato)