Les and Gina Tipton
With a diagnosis of supranuclear palsy in 2019, life has been anything but ordinary and effortless for the Tipton family. Les is nonverbal and his wife Gina spends her days as his caretaker tending to his needs as this terminal disease progresses.
“It’s a pretty unforgiving disease,” said Gina. “It’s pretty tough to see someone who was always a worker go through this. It kind of hit us out of the left field. There’s a little bit more of him taken every day.”
Many children who are diagnosed with the genetic disorder known as Treacher Collins Syndrome find themselves placed in institutional living situations away from the comforts of home and the loving support of family and friends. For the Kougl family whose two-year-old daughter Quinn lives with Treacher Collins, this was not an acceptable option.
In recent years, when customers entered a Billings Walgreens, they were greeted with a warm smile and a kind word from Donna Goodale, whose motto is “Smiles are the currency you will never go broke on, so give them all away.” This is a woman who rolls with the punches and jumps up with a smile.
Donna moved from Iowa to Montana to attend Rocky Mountain College in Billings 17 years ago, anticipating a college degree and a career. But when her funds ran out, she left school to go to work. She hopped from job to job until 2014, when she found her passion for customer service working at Walgreens. Her duties ranged from cashiering to covering the photo counter and serving as a pharmacy cashier. Her very visual memory also endeared her to both customers and management because she knew where everything was!
18-year-old Jeremiah Thompson was afloat. He was a high school dropout with no job, no future on the horizon and no place to go. “I didn’t know what to do” he said, “and I really needed help!”
Jeremiah’s sister reached out to Independent Living Specialist Jen Hawkinson from the Glendive branch of LIFTT, hoping she could get Jeremiah back on track. Little did Jeremiah know that Hawkinson was a powerhouse of ideas and a relentless advocate. “Jen is super persistent, “said Jeremiah, “she was on me 24/7, no slacking.”
Today, Jeremiah’s future is bright. He owns a car and recently landed a maintenance job. He is considering returning to Job Corps at some point, but right now, Jeremiah is attending high school in Dickinson, North Dakota, working for his dad and keeping his life on track.