GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Alice Brouhard needed a big dose of positive energy.
Brouhard, a nurse in the acute care center of Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, had a pair of loved ones who were suffering from an illness and an injury. Her husband, Jim, was in the very hospital where she worked. Her daughter, Kara, had just had a fall and broken her ankle.
It wasn’t what you would call the best of times for the Brouhards.
“Jim had complications from a [benign] brain tumor and was in the intensive care unit, and Kara’s ankle was in a cast after she fell during a seizure,” Alice Brouhard said.
Knowing that exercise is often the best medicine for mental as well as physical woes, and being an avid early morning walker, Brouhard decided she would give the Mother’s Day Mile a try. That was four years ago.
“We used to always bake pies for the event to help out, but I had never done the mile,” she said. “I was always working at the hospital on Mother’s Day.”
Helping out Advocate Safehouse, the race’s beneficiary, was another good reason for Brouhard to toe the line with her daughter and give it a go.
“I put Kara in a wheelchair and one of her caregivers, Meagan Nehls and I strapped her in and off we went,” said Brouhard, laughing at the memory. “Kara and I made a pact after we finished that we would continue to do the race each year.”
Completing a mile walk is more of an undertaking for Kara Brouhard than it would be for most folks.
Kara, who is now legally blind, was severely injured in the winter of 1986 when a skier collided with her at a high speed. What started out as a fun family ski day for the Brouhards turned into a nightmare in seconds.
Kara, just in kindergarten at the time, suffered severe brain trauma from the collision. The road to recovery and to a semblance of normalcy in Kara’s life has been a long one. But at age 33, Kara now lives on her own with the help caregivers, which include her mom and dad. Jim Brouhard’s treatment for his brain tumor was successful, and he has no issues helping take care of Kara.
As a result of her accident, Kara suffers seizures and has no concept of time. To keep Kara safe and on task, the Brouhard’s have installed a unique iPad system in Kara’s home that not only lets them monitor their daughter’s well being when she is alone, but also prompts Kara as to when it is time to do the daily chores such as cooking dinner, feeding her dog, Phoebe, or getting herself ready for bed.
Kara has lived on her own — with Phoebe as her roommate — for the last seven years. She enjoys the freedom, and her parents enjoy seeing the peace of mind it has brought to her life.
“I like being on my own,” Kara said. She then agrees enthusiastically when her mom said: “It’s good to challenge yourself physically and mentally.”
Kara gets out for a walk on the average of two to three times a week. Some of her other activities include making bracelets that she sells at the Hot Springs Pool gift shop, fixing trail mix for the summer farmer’s market in downtown Glenwood, and baking cookies for the Glenwood firemen, who give her a ride on the fire truck each year during Strawberry Days.
After Kara gets her mom to pinkie promise that they will always do the mile on Mother’s Day, she talks about her favorite part of the race.
“Just walking and seeing everybody and getting a sip of water at the college,” Kara said.
Alice, who sits nearby, quickly reminds Kara of a big part of the day she left out.
“I like walking through the finish line by myself!” Kara says excitedly.
Alice also brings up a big part of the festivities that Kara also enjoys especially well.
“We both like the pie at the end,” Alice said. “After we’re done eating, the first thing Kara talks about is doing the race next year.”
These two special ladies, Kara and Alice, make a pretty good team. The love and admiration they have for each other is evident, and it’s been a long, hard road to navigate for both of them since that winter day in 1986.
Considering the journey they’ve taken to get to this point already, another mile won’t faze them one bit.