February 29/March 7, 2016; Volume 30, Number 18
By Leah Gross
(Editor’s note: Floor Covering News is running this special feature in support of the Floor Covering Industry Foundation.)
By all accounts Levi Carroll was a vivacious, energetic 5-year-old boy who loved nothing more than running around with his 15-year-old brother, Tom. They played sports, attended local schools and lived in a very close-knit community in Ramsey, Ill.
On Thanksgiving Day back in 2000, the boys—who were on holiday from school—were feeling particularly bored. Meanwhile, Levi’s parents were busy in the kitchen preparing the family’s annual turkey feast. Just a few hours before dinner was scheduled, Tom asked his parents if he and Levi could take a borrowed 4-wheeler for a drive around the neighborhood. Mom and dad initially hesitated but acquiesced to their son’s pleas. Their only request was that they take the family’s cell phone “just in case.”
Before the turkey was finished they received a call that would forever change their lives. Tom, who was on the other end, told his parents an accident occurred and Levi was hurt. (The boys had tried to take the off-road 4-wheeler across a very deep ditch which caused it to flip back on itself.) The Carrolls grabbed their two daughters and jumped in the family car and raced to the scene of the accident. Once there they found the 4-wheeler upside-down in a ditch and Tom standing on the side of the road with Levi in his arms. Levi had sustained serious wounds to his head and mouth when the vehicle flipped.
The family raced Levi to the nearest hospital, which was located in a small town called Vandalia. Unfortunately, the hospital there was not equipped to handle Levi’s injuries. Once he was stabilized, Levi was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in St. Louis. Pediatric doctors there determined that Levi’s jaw was broken. He also he suffered multiple fractures to his face. In addition, several of his teeth were knocked out upon impact and others were displaced.
Over the course of the next 24 hours, Levi underwent lengthy surgeries to rebuild his jaw and repair the broken bones in his face. Before the initial surgeries were complete, his jaw was wired shut with metal pins holding his facial bones together. He also received a tracheal tube in his throat to allow him to breathe. He could not eat on his own and relied on nourishment from his IV tubes.
Levi remained in the hospital for 10 days. Amazingly, despite all of the pain and discomfort he had to endure, Levi still made attempts to speak to his family. With the one part of his body not weighed down by equipment, Levi made his best efforts to write words using the letters that he had just learned in kindergarten, which he just started a few months earlier. It took a while for his family to realize what he was trying to say but they gradually began to understand him.
When Levi finally came home from the hospital his jaw was unwired but still in a very fragile state; he also had a tracheal collar and cap. Levi’s teacher came to the family home periodically to check in on him to ensure that he kept up with his class. The family rallied around him to help with his 24/7 care, and a local nurse also visited him regularly.
After three months of recovery, Levi was able to return to school in March 2001. Though he was teased and taunted over the years as a result of his facial disfigurement, he did his best to rise above it. As he grew older he privately prayed for a day when he might be able to afford the surgeries that would bring his face back to normal. (At the time of Levi’s accident the family did not have health insurance.) The Carroll family had received some assistance from Children’s Hospital in St. Louis and also from Illinois Medical Aid programs. They did their best to make ends meet but it was still a financial hardship.
The financial support the Carroll family so desperately needed finally came in 2015, when they first learned about the Floor Covering Industry Foundation (FCIF) through an article that ran in a flooring industry trade publication. At Levi’s urging, Rebecca Carroll, Levi’s mother, contacted FCIF. Her request for assistance was made in March that year and was approved by FCIF just a few months later in June.
Thankfully, with help from FCIF, Levi has been able to receive the prosthetic care and procedures that were once out of his family’s reach. The Carroll family also received additional funds to help with expenses associated with traveling to specialist appointments.
Today Levi has a brand new smile. Now 21 years old, he is more confident than ever. He is currently in his third year of college at Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, Ill., where he is studying to become a construction site manager. When time permits, Levi also works with his father as a flooring installer.
The Carroll family is very thankful for the help they received from FCIF. They feel that without help from the foundation Levi might not have been granted the prosthetic care he needed.
History of helping people
Founded in 1980 by several prominent industry figures, led by the late Walter Guinan, the FCIF is dedicated to providing financial support for floor covering industry professionals who experience catastrophic illness, severe disabilities or other life-altering hardships. These philanthropic efforts are accomplished with compassion and confidentiality (the Carrolls voluntarily chose to share their story with the public).
Behind every one of the FCIF’s assistance grants is a story of crisis and perseverance—of real people, like Levi, struggling through a difficult time in their lives. The FCIF’s caring approach allows those in need to seek help with the goal of keeping unexpected setbacks from turning into permanent roadblocks.
FCIF’s grants cover catastrophic illness or severe disabilities resulting in financial need. (Note: Only grants are given; there are no loans and no repayment.) Grants are awarded for such expenses as medical care, medications, medical supplies and other costs applicants may encounter in carrying on their lives. Grants may be given for a specific medical procedure or for ongoing therapy.
Since its founding, the FCIF has granted more than $3 million to help those in need. Beneficiaries include retailers, installers, retail salespeople, distributor personnel, mill employees and executives. Financial help is viewed as an opportunity to say, “we care” to those in our industry. The FCIF is dependent on charitable contributions from industry employees, companies, manufacturers and industry associations. The amount of assistance that can be provided, as well as the number of beneficiaries who can be helped, is determined by the availability of funds.
To be eligible for assistance an applicant must have derived his or her primary income from employment in the floor covering business for at least five years. Immediate family members of industry members also qualify. The applicant or immediate family member must be in extreme financial need, meaning all other financial resources such as family assistance, medical insurance and disability insurance must be depleted.
For more information on the FCIF, please visit fcif.org.