Giving Back: After TBI, couple supports Be The Light

John and Monica Lavery are being the light with their support of LSC.

Monica Lavery is a clinical social worker, trauma therapist, and clinical supervisor. She worked at child and family services and community mental health in Raleigh for 22 years. During that time, she became familiar with LSC’s foster care program.

The couple were also members of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church for 18 years, which is where they learned of LSC’s refugee resettlement programs. Monica Lavery was the outreach coordinator for the church and helped coordinate support for the programs by collecting donations throughout the year.

But it wasn’t until recently that the Lavery’s discovered LSC’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) homes; a cause that is close to their hearts.

John’s TBI

Just after Christmas in 2013, John Lavery fell out of a tree that he was trimming in the couple’s yard. He was nearly killed by the fall and was taken to WakeMed where it was discovered he had sustained a TBI.

“The main injury was to the base of the brain, which is an unusual injury. A lot of people who have brain injuries have frontal lobe injuries or on the side, but the way he fell, he had a whiplash injury and almost broke his neck,” Monica Lavery said. “The base of the brain regulates your breathing, your heart rate, your blood pressure, it regulates everything in your body. So, when John first fell, WakeMed had a real challenge in regulating all of his body functions while his brain got better.”

Before his accident John Lavery, a PhD mathematician, worked at the Army Research Office in Research Triangle Park as associate director for mathematical and computational sciences, had a consulting firm on the side, and worked as an adjunct professor with NC State University’s Department of Materials Sciences Engineering.

He was also a triathlete, and in great shape. Monica Lavery believes that his active lifestyle played a role in his recovery.

John Lavery now lives independently at Abbotswood at Stonehenge in Raleigh.

“When John was in the hospital, the neuropsychologist thought he would be in a nursing home for the rest of his life,” Monica Lavery said. “And I said to her, ‘You don’t know my husband.’”

His fund of knowledge were largely unaffected, so John Lavery still reads and speaks the languages he already knew (German, Mandarin, French), and he was able to go back to work part-time as an adjunct professor at NC State, supervising PhD candidates with mathematical projects, for a couple of years.

At Abbotswood, John Lavery is very involved. He attends exercise classes and was part of the community’s choir before it took a break due to Covid. He’s been playing trombone since he was in high school and uses the instrument for breath control exercises.

“It’s important for people with TBI to have as full a life as possible, so they can get stimulation for their brain to help them recover,” Monica Lavery said. “Where we are now is that John lives independently, which I hope is encouragement for anyone who has a relative with TBI.”

Committing to Being the Light

While John Lavery was in the hospital, Monica Lavery noticed many of the people they met with TBIs were young.

“I met a number of people through the support group at WakeMed and there were a lot of parents who were trying to figure out what was going to happen to their children who were disabled with TBI when they are no longer able to take care of them,” Monica Lavery said.

When the couple heard about the Be The Light campaign and how it will support LSC’s TBI program, they knew it was something they had to be a part of.

“When I read about LSC’S TBI homes I was really interested. Then when we saw the campaign, we knew we had to jump on that,” Monica Lavery said. “It’s a really big need and LSC is trying to help meet that need through these homes.”

One of the goals of the campaign includes creating two residential group homes for people with brain injuries. LSC opened the first of these two homes in 2021 thanks to the generous support from campaign donors. Moretz Manor is located in Durham, NC and offers a safe place for up to six individuals with TBIs to live independently.

The campaign will also create a new integrated model of care to improve outcomes for the ever-expanding number of clients with brain injuries in LSC’s care, most of whom have complex health needs. This new model will improve both the physical and behavioral health needs of clients by promoting coordinated communication across multiple health providers and LSC teammates.

The Lavery’s have personally made a three-year financial commitment to support the campaign through gifts of stock. They have designated their gift to support the goal to create two TBI homes.

“We have a long-term commitment to LSC because we really believe in the quality of the organization,” Monica Lavery said. “I really love what LSC does because it’s such a variety of things. The staff is from all over the world, and they put their talents and skills toward issues that are very timely. This is an organization that has a great track record.”

For more information on LSC’s Be The Light campaign, visit