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Christmas Can Cure is more than just a phrase to these families

Wounded soldiers and their families will enjoy a magical holiday

The Band-Aid on this wreath symbolizes the healing power of Christmas for the Christmas Can Cure Foundation. Courtesy Photo. (click for larger version)
December 03, 2009
Now picture yourself in a foreign land, far away from family and friends, where every day is about survival. Where people are trying to destroy you and comrades are dying beside you. Where the sounds you remember are of explosions and screams. These are the memories that many of our country's wounded veterans have when they close their eyes.

What if it were possible to make new Christmas memories so that when these brave young men and women reflect back on their lives they recall tinkling sleigh bells, laughing loved ones, holiday feasts, presents from Santa, and romps in the snow?

What if it were possible for Christmas to Cure?

That is a question that the Carrier family of Jackson began to ask themselves over a year ago. Since then, they've put their thoughts into actions and their idea has spread.

Last year, two gravely wounded veterans and their families were treated to an old fashioned New England Christmas here in the White Mountains, thanks to the Carrier family's partnership with the Wounded Warrior Project. This year, three families will be welcomed to the Valley and two others will partake in a weekend of holiday cheer in Park City, Utah, courtesy of Christmas Can Cure.

Founded in 2008, Christmas Can Cure is a non-profit organization that embodies the spirit of Christmas for our returning heroes.

In a recent press release, Andre Carrier, adult son of retired dentist Gerry Carrier and his wife, Del, of Jackson, said, "The wars of the last six years have left our country with over 35,000 wounded veterans. For these warriors and their families, returning to civilian life and coping with their disabilities has many challenges. For many, the mental and physical strain only gets worse around the holidays with the added pressure, both emotional and financial, of providing a perfect Christmas for their families. To relieve this stress, Christmas Can Cure seeks to give these soldiers a Christmas they can look forward to and remember for a lifetime."

This year, the three families who will be enjoying an all-expense-paid White Mountain Christmas are Shane and Kerri Ugliono and their three children, Tyler (6), Taryn (5) and Teagan (2); William and Desiree Quiroz, and son David (4) and daughter Isabella (2); and the Luce family, Jared and Melanie, with sons JJ (11), Caelan (10), and Donovan (7).

According to Melanie Luce, all three of her boys believe in Santa, although JJ at age 11 is savvy enough to keep any doubts to himself. When asked if the children were excited about their upcoming trip, Melanie replied, "Well today, Nov. 21, is Caelan's 10th birthday so he's not looking too far ahead yet. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, we're taking one day at a time. I'm sure once we get past Thanksgiving they'll really start to think about it."

As for husband Jared, he's busy studying for mid-year exams at Manchester Community College in Connecticut where he's in his second year of studies for a degree in Computer Science. "He's doing very well and I'm very proud of him," states Melanie. "When he finishes at Manchester Community, he plans on completing his bachelors degree at U Conn."

Jared is a double amputee who lost both legs 10 days into his tour in Iraq. He spent months in a Bethesda, Md., hospital before being transferred for a six-month stay at Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C., where he was fitted for prostheses.

"He didn't want to leave the Marines, but he was medically discharged about 2-1/2 years ago," says Melanie. "We've learned to cope and we're just going about our everyday lives, which are pretty busy raising three young boys. I thought about getting a job last year, but I don't know how mothers who work do it," she said laughing. "Once I get everyone packed and ready for this trip, I'm really looking forward to a nice relaxing vacation," she jokes.

William Quiroz and his wife, Desiree, say they are overwhelmed by the generosity of the Christmas Can Cure program and partners. William says, "We feel we don't deserve it, but we're very thankful. Our children, David, age 4, and Isabella, age 2, are a little young to anticipate what's coming, but last winter they loved playing in the snow and I know that they'll have memories from this trip that will last forever. I'm already imagining the looks on their faces it will just be 'WOW!'

"We haven't had a vacation together as a family in years, so Desiree and I are looking forward to just getting away from it all and spending time with our kids. We're very excited."

Sargent Shane Ugliono's five man team was ambushed on Jan 8, 2008, by more than 20 insurgents. The ensuing firefight left three of his men dead and Shane was shot 16 times. Two of the shots hit him in the left arm, leaving that arm paralyzed. He was hit four times in the head. Two of the rounds penetrated his brain, causing a traumatic brain injury and swelling of his brain.

Shane says, "This will be the first Christmas that I will be home in three years. My family has been great, and my wife has been amazing. She deserves the medal of honor for all she has done. For us to enjoy a holiday together with our children is going to be really special to our family."

Gerry and Del Carrier's extended family now totals more then 30, including five children and nine grandchildren. The entire clan is involved in one way or another in furthering the Christmas Can Cure mission. Two members of the extended family are currently serving in Afghanistan and Iraq; others have served in WWII and Vietnam, and two are USMA graduates.

The family states it is passionate about serving returning warriors. It's hard to determine who's more excited — the Carrier family or their guests. Just this week the Carriers were merrily planning the agenda, which will include a walking tour of North Conway, sleigh rides at Nestlenook, snowboarding and skiing, a trip to Santa's Village, cookie and ornament making, sledding and tubing, snowmobiling and dining. And, of course, a ride on the Polar Express to visit Santa and his elves.

It's been the outpouring of support that they've received from the townspeople of this Valley and, now, for the first time, residents of Park City, Utah, that's allowed them to turn their vision into reality. With the assistance of Park City residents, the program is expanding across the country. And here in Jackson, where the Carriers call home, their list of donors keeps growing.

This year's contributors include The Lodge at Jackson Village, Christmas Farm Inn and Spa, the Wentworth Resort, Mac Donald Motors, Eric Corbett, Mike Meehan, Wildcat Ski Area , Bretton Woods Ski Area, Marilyn and Del Desmarais, Roy and Nancy Lundquist,TGIF Club, Bob Grant Photography, Flat Bread Pizza Company, Red Parka Steakhouse & Pub, Flossie's General Store, Zeb's General Store, Nestlenook Estate & Farm, Eagle Mountain House, J-Town Deli, Yesterday's, Debony's Hair Salon and Spa, Santa's Village, White Mountain Hotel, Sound Resort, the VFW, Mount Washington Valley Kiwanis club, Yesterdays, Moriah Hounsell Photography, Billy McVickers Photography, Cranmore Mountain, Attitash Mountain, Lil 'Man Snowmobiling, Ruthie's Flower Shop, Met Coffee House, 5 and 10 cent store, Bartlett Tree, Mark Stowbridge, Red Fox and the Shannon Door Pub.

Like last year, this year's itinerary will include a flag raising service at the Jackson town offices, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 18, and a flag lowering at 10 a.m. on Tuesday the 22nd. The public is invited to attend.

Dr. Carrier explains, "There is a story that goes with the flags. This is very emotional for them and for all of us. Last December, the Christmas Can Cure participants, the Mitchell and Cortinas families, were presented with the flags that flew over the town offices during their stay. They kept the flags for a year but were asked to pass them on to this year's families and if desired, to include a note, detailing their White Mountain Christmas."

In their messages, both the Mitchell and Cortinas families enthusiastically encouraged this year's families to embrace this opportunity to relax amongst friends. Their notes conveyed that Christmas Can Cure more than achieved its mission. A year later, the Mitchells and Cortinas fondly remembered their time in the White Mountains and the restful feeling of being well cared for and leaving their stresses behind.

Although the Carrier family is almost ready to receive this year's honored guests, there are still last-minute items and services that they need to acquire in order to host the perfect Christmas. Donations are welcome to help defray expenses. Gift cards to local stores are greatly appreciated.

While here, the hope is that each family can escape their worries by going on sleigh rides through the forests, relaxing by the fire, and even experiencing activities they may never have had a chance to try before. With the help of partners like the National Ability Center and the Ability Plus Ski Program, they may even find themselves participating in sports and activities they may have previously thought impossible as a result of their injuries. The Carriers hope to provide the right balance between choreographed events and free time.

Gerry, Del and the entire Carrier family are acutely aware that it takes an entire community of givers to make such an endeavor a success. To show their gratitude for the many individuals who are working behind the scenes and assisting in so many different ways with the daily agenda, the Christmas Can Cure Foundation will host on Monday, Dec. 21, at 5 p.m., a cocktail and hors d'oeuvres mixer at the Wentworth Hotel. All individuals who have donated either financially or with services, food, clothing, etc., will have an opportunity to meet the heroes and their heroic families. Everyone present will be invited to participate in a singalong of Christmas Carols to welcome in the Christmas season and see a video presentation of the warrior families' five day stay in the Valley.

You can learn more about this wonderful organization by visiting www.christmascancure.org.

If you would like to be a part of creating this unforgettable Christmas miracle, "Christmas Can Cure" is a tax deductible charitable foundation (501c3 application pending). You can make Wounded Warriors a part of your holiday giving by contacting andre@christmascancure.org, michelle@christmascancure.org or gerry@christmascancure.org. Dr. Carrier can also be reached via his mobile phone at 508-965-7128. Andre Carrier can be reached at 702-813-1383.

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