Denim Day strengthens our community response to sexual violence

On Wednesday, April 24, Aurora caregivers supported Denim Day, a campaign to raise awareness and support survivors of sexual assault.

In some locations, caregivers were able to wear denim in exchange for a $5 donation to the Aurora Health Care Abuse Response Fund.  View a slideshow of activities at multiple Aurora locations in southeastern Wisconsin.

Aurora Health Care Foundation President Cristy Garcia-Thomas and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett

Aurora Health Care Foundation President Cristy Garcia-Thomas and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Local leaders joined at Milwaukee City Hall for a press conference hosted by the City’s Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault.  This year’s “Persons of Influence” campaign featured local leaders wearing denim in support of the 2013 event.

Aurora Health Care is a champion for sexual assault survivors through the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) programs throughout our system, the Sexual Assault Treatment Center, and The Healing Center, where survivors receive free counseling, group therapy and bilingual advocacy.

The Healing Center provides services to more than 600 people annually, and the Sexual Assault Treatment Center has treated more than 1,200 people since 2010.

Through your gift to Denim Day, you can help The Healing Center and other Aurora Health Care services strengthen our community response to sexual violence.

Every gift can change a life. Consider yours today at


Spirited Souls: Meet Rhonda Begos

Rhonda Begos survived childhood sexual abuse. She experienced a great amount of trauma from an early age and because of this, had a difficult time making positive life decisions into her adulthood. She finally took the brave step to seek counseling and called The Healing Center.

Rhonda believes this allowed her to address why she struggled with certain parts of her life and helped her understand that she needed to learn how to forgive herself and take responsibility for her own happiness.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel recently wrote a nice feature story on Rhonda, and I’d love to share it with you here!

We’d also like to share this video interview with Rhonda, explaining how The Healing Center helped her live well as a healthy adult.  For more information, view our YouTube playlist or visit our website.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need.  Please consider making an online gift to extend our reach in the community.  To learn more about our services, please visit our website

Five ways to reconnect with your spiritual self

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

1. Look for opportunities to add goodness to the world. This will enhance your own self love and appreciation for others.

2. Take time each day to reflect by meditating, praying or reading a spiritual poem or book. This will strengthen your emotional well-being.

3. Offer forgiveness to those who may have hurt you.
You may not ever forget, but by forgiving others, you relieve burden from your mind and make room for happy thoughts.

4. Become aware of your positive and negative behavior. This will help you understand your strengths and also recognize room for growth.

5. Be the best YOU, each and every day. In the words of Jay-Z, “The worst thing to be, is successful as someone else.” Monotony is boring, individuality is fascinating.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

How can you improve your spiritual wellness every day?

It’s been awhile since we focused specifically on spiritual wellness, so I’d like to take a bit of time to touch on the topic.

Everything covered in this blog reflects something spiritual in nature, but it’s always beneficial for me to become familiar every now and again about my purpose here.

Here are some simple ways to incorporate spiritual wellness in your life.

1. Before you go to bed every night, think of one thing that happened during the day that made you feel grateful. Thank someone who acted kind towards you, someone who made a difference, yourself, or whoever/whatever you go to for spiritual wholeness.

2. Try to treat others with kindness, especially those who come off as jealous, demeaning, or unfriendly. This is often challenging, but by meeting their negativity with something positive, you can protect your own emotions and maybe make someone else’s day better!

3. Celebrate your inner child! With the temperatures rising, there are endless opportunities for kid-friendly activities—ditch your afternoon coffee for a chocolate ice cream with a friend, play in the dirt (garden, hike, throw around a Frisbee at the park), or take on the water slide challenge at your nearest waterpark. I’ve done a couple of these things lately and felt rejuvenated!

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker’s Point.

4. When life hands you lemons, take one day at a time — and then make some lemonade! Relax and realize that you’re just one person, doing the best you can, and that’s all you can do! Give yourself credit for small achievements like finishing a complicated task at work or on tough days, just getting through the afternoon!

5. Carve out a bit of time for yourself each day. Read, walk, or just breathe. You deserve it and the rest of your life will thank you for taking these moments of self-care.

What tips would you like to share with our readers?

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, deserves the help they need. To learn more about our services, please visit our website

We are moving to a new building this week!

The Healing Center is excited to announce that we are moving to a new building this week at 130 W. Bruce St. in Milwaukee. The location is just 4 blocks East and 2 blocks North of where we are now. This four-story, 30,000 square-foot building is being constructed to meet the highest standards in energy efficiency and environmental friendly design. The Healing Collective, comprised of The Healing Center, Walker’s Point Community Clinic and Core/El Centro will move together, so clients of all three organizations can resume services at the same time. The first floor of the new building will house the Clock Shadow Creamery, a cheese factory and shop. Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic, which provides free primary and preventative care will occupy the second floor, while Core/El Centro, a non-profit providing stress management, exercise classes and other health services will see clients on the third floor. The Healing Center will again be located on the fourth floor and continue to offer free services to uninsured survivors of sexual abuse. This new building will allow us to serve more survivors and features a roof-top farm and state of the art technology, including an elevator that uses 0-Net Energy! Enjoy the photos!

Patrick Schmitt: How he’s using his new found strength to reach out to others

I feel so grateful that Patrick took the time to interview with me recently. Take a look at what we discussed!

 1. Tell me about September 1st, 2006. How did your life change?

On September 1, 2006, I was in a motorcycle accident that changed my life forever.  I left home that Friday morning a very active, energetic 22-year-old, living life to its fullest. I returned home from the hospital, 75 days later a c5-6 quadriplegic.

2. Who was the most significant person to you while you recovered in the hospital after your accident?

There wasn’t just ONE person. For sure my mom and dad were there the most, and my sister, but aunts, uncles and a few friends were there a lot. One of my uncles came almost every night and would stay until I fell asleep because I was scared [of] being alone. I was so out of it with the drugs they had me on so it was nice to have someone I knew with me.

3. I really enjoyed reading the story you wrote on your website: It sounds like you’ve been through so much, but are using that experience to help others. Tell me about what you’re up to now.

Well it’s been a LONG, SLOW journey the last few years. I’ve had numerous health set backs that just come along with being in a chair, but they have all helped me get to where I am today. Since my accident, I am no longer able to do the physical job I was doing, so it has forced me to go back to school. I’m in my second year at Concordia University going for a degree in Business Management. This is HUGE, because I never have been the type of person that likes school! After High School I just wanted to work and make money, school was never going to be in my future, or so I thought.  Also like you mentioned, I have started a web site with some of my very close friends. It’s a site you can go on and read other people’s stories about how they have overcome or dealt with some of life’s hardest situations. We really want the site to be motivating and inspirational to other people that are facing hard situations, and show them that life does get better!

  •  *Patrick would love to hear your stories about a time you realized that “tomorrow’s not a promise.” Please email him at:

4. Do you think you are a different person today (mentally and emotionally) because of the accident?

Absolutely, I think I’m a different person. People who know me will probably say I haven’t changed much, but I think I have! I don’t think 6 years ago, before my accident, I would have thought about trying to help other people cope with situations. Not because I didn’t care, you just see so many things from a different point of view when something like this happens to you. Mentally, I have always been a “hard head!” This has made me mentally strong, but I think driven is a better word. I think I have always been the type of person though that had the attitude “tell me I can’t do something, and I’ll prove you wrong.” Another great site I found years ago for inspiration is: Emotionally I have my good and bad days. I think anyone who has gone through something like this knows how hard it can be at times. You just need to sit back for a second and look at all the positives. I mean you’re still here breathing first off! Then look around at all the great people that support you. That usually helps ME, and reminds me it could have been worse.

5. Tell me about Tomorrow’s Not a Promise. What is your mission with this business?

At Tomorrow’s Not a Promise (TNP) we would like to think of it as a reminder of how fast your life can change, for the BETTER. We want TNP to be something you look to, to be inspired, motivated, and driven to make every situation of every day in life a positive! Face it, we have all had an experience that has affected the way we live our lives in one way or another. Whether it be losing a loved one to something tragic, overcoming a serious condition, or a simple event that you experienced, we ALL have encountered these events in some way. TNP has taken on the mission to share these stories of our life’s events. We share the stories of people who have had an event affect them and how our motto of “TOMORROW’S NOT A PROMISE” may hit home for that individual.  We will share their feelings, and discover how they have overcome their situation. We will get involved in these stories to help you to see that you are not alone.  TNP will provide a connection to help cope, conquer, inspire and motivate you to overcome any hurdle in life.

6. If you could describe your outlook on life in just one word, what would it be?


7. This blog is about spiritual wellness, which can include everything from religion to meditation, healthy living to positive life choices. What do you include in your life that allows for spiritual wellness?

Well I admit I’m not the most “religious” person there is, but I do pray and thank God every night for that day and the people I have in my life.

8. Whom do you most admire?

There is not just 1 person I admire. I admire lots and lots of people! My family as a whole is one, because they are some of the hardest working, caring people I know. I admire anyone who has been successful in life no matter his or her situation. The people I admire the most are every single lost solider or wounded warrior that comes home from overseas. I don’t know how you can’t admire what they do for us.

9. Do you have any long term goals for yourself right now?

My long-term goal is just to try and be as successful in life as I can be. Not in the sense of financial wealth, all though it would be nice, but just to live a good life. I want to inspire/motivate as many people as I can to do something no matter their situation. I also want able bodied people to be educated on the fact that just because I’m in a wheelchair does not mean I have mental issues. I’m as normal as the guy standing next to me, just a little shorter and not as fast!

10. If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

Travis Pastrana –

11. Patrick, thank you so much for doing this interview. You are truly an inspiration and I really see you doing great things in the future! One last question: In your personal story you wrote about on the website, you talked about your pursuit of the whitetail buck. Any luck yet?

Sore subject after this season… NEXT YEAR!

How do you celebrate your sense of “you?”

Stephanie coordinates volunteers, marketing efforts and operations for The Healing Center in Walker's Point.

As promised last week, I’d like to continue the discussion on Psychology Today’s article about what it means to be an “authentic” person.

How much do you rely on others? It’s important to be independent, but quite difficult to completely distance ourselves from the cultural, social and legal ties that bind us to society. The key to this concept is really about balance. For example, in my own life, I am pleased to help and receive feedback from others, as long as it does not take away from my own happiness and deter me from reaching my goals.

I also think it’s important to remember that we are not things, constructed for one purpose. We are human beings, composed of many parts that allow us to think, feel, grow and create change. For instance, a teacher is not just a teacher. He is also a multitude of other roles: a parent, a church-goer, a runner and a traveler, who prefers pears to oranges, red to blue and coffee to tea. True authenticity does not negate the fact that one’s “building blocks” may be similar to others’, but that these blocks are stacked in a different order, comprised of diverse colors and are chosen based on that individual’s unique likes and dislikes.

It is important to take a stand for what you believe in and hold on to your principles. Although, as the article points out, it’s not necessary to “…fight every battle to the death…” it is imperative that you uphold your dignity by defending the values that you find most important.

To foster my own individuality, I must choose a path that allows my self-confidence to shine and feel comfortable learning from my mistakes. I can increase my confidence by practicing self-acceptance during the hard times and moving on, instead of turning inwards and consistently berating myself.

As with anything in life, true authenticity may seem easy for some and more difficult for others. For most though, including myself, I believe it’s really a daily process that grows stronger over time. When faced with an open mind and heart, we can begin to strengthen our unique selves and learn to thrive as individuals amongst the world around us.

The Healing Center provides counseling, group therapy and other support services to adult survivors of sexual violence. All of our services are free, as we believe that everyone, regardless of inability to pay, has a right to heal from abuse. To learn more about our services, please visit our website