This is one of a series of stories about the 15 nonprofit agencies that receive money from The Gazette/El Pomar Foundation Empty Stocking campaign that runs through the holidays.
At age 46, Randy Larsen had his first stroke.
Caron Hogan, his fiance, said it was a normal morning when she heard a crash from the living room. She ran to find Larsen on the ground, his eyes rolling around in the back of his head and his mouth drooped.
That was five years ago, and Larsen has had up to 10 more strokes since that day. During one, he fell off a boat and nearly drowned, but was revived on shore.
“I tell him all the cats in the neighborhood are jealous of him because they only get nine lives,” Hogan said.
In that split-second five years ago, everything in Hogan’s life changed, including the man she loved.
“I didn’t expect to fill out social security and other paperwork at that age,” she said. Larsen’s income had supported them, while Hogan’s was for fun things. A month and a half before Larsen’s stroke, his employer had eliminated his health care insurance, and just the cost of the ambulance after his first stroke was $1,500.
She had volunteered and raised money for Tri-Lakes Cares years before, but it took her a while to let go of her pride and ask them for help.
“It wasn’t a hand out, it was a hand up,” she said of their services. “They’re just amazing.”
Tri-Lakes Cares is a non profit that works to improves the lives of the citizens in Northern El Paso County by providing emergency assistance, self-sufficiency programs and other social services to to those in need, according to its website.
Tri-Lakes Cares has helped Hogan along every step of a journey she never planned to take. She couldn’t work because caring for Larsen became a full-time job, so Tri-Lakes paid for her to go to school to become his certified nursing assistant. Once she is approved through Medicaid, she will be paid to care for him.
The agency also provided canes, booster seats for the toilets in their home, gas vouchers, food and anything else she needed.
“Tri Lakes, I just can’t say enough good things,” she said.