In 2008, Cara and Mary were introduced to one another as cancer survivors who could potentially support one another through the pains and struggles that accompany The Big C. What was found instead of commiseration was a frustration involving educating and supporting children and families with hearing loss. Mary was providing counseling and behavioral support to children within the school district where Cara was working, so informal brainstorming sessions began, planning for the best ways to collaboratively support the families receiving services. The local Atlanta Bread Company became very familiar with both their faces and their coffee preferences. As those brainstorming sessions progressed, one thing became glaringly clear to them both – their current roles just weren’t going to cut it any longer.
They spent several months doing research on states, programs, and services and put several ideas into motion until they realized that the biggest missing piece for families of children with hearing loss in South Carolina was education and impartial information–for the parents. They found a program doing exactly what they hoped to do – just across the border in North Carolina – and made contact with their Executive Director, and set about to make it happen in SC. The next months were a blur. There were more meetings at Atlanta Bread Company, more research, late night FaceTime meetings, and long weekends spent figuring out how to make it happen. Soon paperwork began, applications were submitted, and Beginnings SC was officially born in January of 2012. Cara and Mary jokingly talk about those first meetings with Beginnings in North Carolina and how their staff likely didn’t realize how motivated Cara and Mary were to get things moving. At the second meeting with Beginnings in NC, Cara and Mary arrived with their plans on how/where to seek out funders, office space possibilities, and decreased work schedules. Another running joke is a well-respected mentor (who is still serving on the Beginnings SC Board) said that starting a SC Beginnings was “a lofty goal.” They both replied “Challenge accepted!” and never looked back. They can reflect now and recall how there wasn’t any way they could have stayed in those former roles (while worthwhile and important) because they felt like they were repeatedly putting band aids on gaping wounds, when they really wanted to find the source of the cut. Nine years later and nearly 400 families referred, Beginnings SC is now a team of eight working tirelessly and using their curiosity and (often most importantly) humor to renew hope for families. Cara and Mary are thrilled you want to learn more about why they started Beginnings SC, and they hope you’ll visit again often to see what they’re up to next.