How The Healing Center helped turn Shawn from an “emotional zombie” into an advocate

From the outside looking in, Shawn Hittman has lived a pretty privileged life. He grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Oconomowoc, was a good student, great athlete and got along well with most everyone he met. That was all part of his personal plan and goals to do well. But he didn’t get straight A’s. And he wasn’t given too many “outstanding achievement” awards, either. That was actually part of his plan, too.

“I decided I needed to ‘stay off the radar.’ I wanted to do well in school, athletics, church and with friends, but I never wanted to do TOO WELL so that anyone would shine a light on me. I hated recognition,” he explains.

That’s because Shawn was holding inside a shameful personal secret. When he was just seven years old, he was sexually abused by an older boy that he met through a babysitter. That boy, who Shawn believes was around 11 at the time, also began involving Shawn’s younger sister who was just five. The abuse lasted about two weeks, until Shawn mustered up the courage to do something about it.

“I punched him in the gut as hard as I could. He never came back to our house again. When my parents asked what happened, I told them he stole my Legos. I got grounded, but at least he was gone,” Shawn shared.

Shawn made a conscious decision at that young age to bury the abuse and try to never think of it again. And so he went about his life, doing well by most standards, but never allowing himself the joy or pain of being vulnerable. His emotions were numb, and he wasn’t really “living.”

But everything changed in 2006 when a friend of his disclosed to him, his own story of abuse. “What he told me about himself triggered the secret I had buried long ago… I decided to take a leap of faith and for the first time ever, I told him parts of what I remembered from my childhood.”

It took a few months, but Shawn began to realize how numb he was, how the abuse had impacted his life, and he decided to get help. He found The Healing Center, an Aurora Healing and Advocacy Service in Milwaukee. He began counseling sessions, along with a Men’s Group with other male survivors, each with their own story of abuse and healing. Shawn completely committed himself to the therapy and immediately began to feel a weight being lifted. He started to allow himself to feel vulnerable, and that enabled him to feel true joy he’d never experienced in his adult life.

“Everything in life since that day got better. It was time for me to be big and bold, and I never could have imagined how it would end up bringing me to a place of real confidence in my life,” he shares.

In 2014, Shawn shared his journey by contributing a chapter in a book called “Healing Happens: Inspirational Stories of Overcoming.” And he will share his story publicly at this year’s Hope Shining Blue event, a Denim Day Celebration honoring survivors of assault that supports Aurora Healing and Advocacy Services. Shawn will be honored as the 2017 Thrive Award winner, because of his courage to speak publicly and help others just like him.

Shawn says he will keep sharing his story and shining a light on his abuse. Not only because he’s no longer afraid to be vulnerable, but because he knows it could change someone else’s life, too.

“Someone put faith in me to tell his story first. Without that, none of this would be possible and I would still be an emotional zombie. So I will tell my story as many times as it takes because disclosure is the way we, as a society, will defeat this epidemic.”

Limited seats are still available for Hope Shining Blue. If you aren’t able to attend, you can always make a gift to support Aurora Healing and Advocacy Services, Support for survivors of domestic and sexual assault. CLICK HERE to purchase a ticket or make a gift.

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Why do YOU walk in the Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer?

LCRF_Logos_fnl_Color-NoLocationWe know that so many of you participate in the Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer to help support cancer care initiatives and programs available to help cancer patients locally, in your areas.

But we want to hear in your own words why you walk.

Cancer has reached us all in some way. Maybe you walk to support a friend or loved one who’s been affected by cancer. Maybe you’re a cancer caregiver walking to support those taking on our toughest care.

Maybe the person you walk for is you.

Whatever your reason, we’d love to hear your story! You’re such an important part of the Lombardi Walk team, find your local walk here, then please visit the Aurora Health Care Foundation Facebook page and let us know in the comments why you walk!

LW collage

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You can support survivors of abuse by making a gift and a fashion statement

An injustice in Italy sparks an international day of protest and a way to show support for survivors of sexual assault. This year, Denim Day is April 26 and there are many ways you can participate and support Aurora’s abuse response programs that not only treat thousands of survivors, but help see them through lifelong recovery.

How it started

Denim Day is in honor of an 18-year-old girl in Italy who was forcibly raped by her driving instructor. The teen pressed charges, but the case was dismissed because the chief judge decided that, “… because the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape, but consensual sex.”

Aurora’s unparalleled commitment to the cause

From Two Rivers in the north, to Kenosha in the south, Aurora has Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or SANE nurses, available at nine different locations. These nurses have specialized forensic training and resources available to treat victims and assist law enforcement in an investigation.

In Milwaukee, the Sexual Assault Treatment Center located at Aurora Sinai Medical Center provides crisis intervention and emotional support to survivors 24 hours a day. In 2016, the SATC treated 675 individuals; most of them adults, but some of them children.

Aurora Health Care also operates The Healing Center, located in Milwaukee. The Healing Center is the state’s only free center dedicated to helping abuse survivors recover and thrive. It offers opportunities for healing through support, advocacy and community education.

The Milwaukee Sexual Assault Review is led by Aurora Health Care, in collaboration with the Milwaukee Homicide Review Commission. Partners from law enforcement, state and local criminal justice agencies, review sexual assault cases, exchange information, and make actionable recommendations based on identified trends in sexual assault.

Ways you can help

  • Wear denim: You can make a pledge to wear denim on April 26 and make a personal statement with your fashion statement. LEARN MORE.
  • Attend Hope Shining Blue: a Denim Day celebration to benefit Aurora Health Care’s Abuse Response Programs, including The Healing Center, Sexual Assault Treatment Center, Milwaukee Sexual Assault Review and Safe Mom Safe Baby. LEARN MORE.
  • Get your workplace involved: Are you interested in getting your workplace or group of friends involved to support survivors on Denim Day? Contact Caroline Beckom at to learn how to participate.
  • Make a gift: You can enhance Aurora’s commitment to this cause by making a gift to one of our critical programs. CLICK HERE to donate.

Aurora Health Care truly cares about survivors of sexual assault. It is committed to not only treating injuries and providing compassionate care, but helping connect survivors to important community resources and providing counseling and therapy so they can begin the journey of lifelong healing.

Please help spread awareness by sharing this story about Aurora’s Abuse Response Programs, and make a gift by CLICKING HERE.

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Lifesaving CPR devices headed to western Racine and Kenosha counties

Thanks to a generous donation from the Memorial Hospital of Burlington Community Foundation, Aurora will purchase seven new automated cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) devices for emergency responders covering communities in western Racine and Kenosha counties. The $140,000 investment will allow the Foundation to partner with Aurora Health Care to purchase these life-saving devices for responders in the following locations: Burlington, Twin Lakes, Union Grove, Waterford, Rochester, Wind Lake and Raymond.

“Every second counts when responding to a patient in cardiac arrest,” said David Lynch, Memorial Hospital of Burlington Community Foundation. “We are excited to improve access to automated CPR devices so our local EMS teams can provide the best care possible and help to improve patient outcomes.”

The automated CPR devices are designed to provide consistent, uninterrupted chest compressions during a sudden cardiac arrest episode, eliminating the need for sometimes difficult and tiring manual chest compressions.

The devices sustain a higher fl ow of blood to the brain and heart compared to manual compressions, and will provide more emergency responders—many who are volunteers– to complete other emergent tasks to better assist individuals suffering from cardiac arrest.

The automated CPR devices are part of a 2016 donation dedicated by the Foundation to partner with Aurora Health Care in order to improve the Burlington community. For more information, contact Michelle Weber, Director of Foundation Development at

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Doctor gives back to hospital that “feels like home”

Dr. Masood Wasiullah and his wife, Karin

Dr. Masood Wasiullah and his wife, Karin

Thanks to a $25,000 gift from The Wasiullah Family Foundation, a brand new Behavioral Health Community Resource Room is now open to the community at Aurora St. Luke’s South Shore.

Masood Wasiullah, MD, a family practice physician, started working at the hospital at the young age of 17 as an orderly. He remained there until he stopped seeing patients in 2014. Dr. Wasiullah’s wife and children were also born at the hospital. He says it has special meaning to his family and the entire community, and he wanted to give back.


The room at Aurora St. Luke’s South Shore was designed to serve the whole community.

“That’s the beauty of Aurora St. Luke’s South Shore, it’s a place you feel at home. And it’s one of  few places offering inpatient behavioral health services. So this new room will help enhance that already exceptional care,” he explains.

To learn more about programs you can support at Aurora St. Luke’s South Shore, contact Adam Martin at

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Paying it forward: How one man’s journey to sobriety is helping others


Jay has been sober for two years, and now leads recovery groups at the Lighthouse on Dewey.

At the age of 24, Jay was a new dad and a seasoned drug abuser. He started drinking and smoking pot when he was 11 years old. Soon after, he began using heroin.

“I grew up having everything resolved by some sort of substance,” Jay recalls. “I’d steal, lie, get a 30 second rush, and spend 15 minutes not thinking about anything. Then, I’d do it all over again.”

When his daughter was born, Jay began to reevaluate his addiction, but it wasn’t enough to make him stop. He remembers being in a car accident while he was high, and months later, was caught stealing.

“I was constantly hurting the people around me and I was extremely depressed,” Jay says. “I was at the point in my life where I found happiness when I thought about dying.”

Jay’s mother brought him to the Aurora Behavioral Health Campus in Wauwatosa. In December 2013, that’s where he started an inpatient program and was introduced to the Dewey Center.

“The Dewey Center saved my life. Addiction is too powerful to pull yourself out of alone, and the different programs at the Dewey Center helped me become willing to make the change,” Jay recalls.

Jay later moved to the Alumni House, an onsite transitional living facility for individuals in recovery. About a week into treatment, he visited the Lighthouse on Dewey.

Today, Jay is two-years sober and leads a second Heroin Anonymous (HA) group at the Lighthouse to help heroin addicts on their recovery journey. And at age 27, Jay is a full-time student, owns his own home, is employed, has a new son and is in meetings at the Lighthouse twice a week.

“I’ve mentored a handful of guys, and what’s hard is you can’t get sober for somebody else.
But you can be there to help show there is hope,” Jay shares, and feels the new expansion of  the Dewey Center and Alumni House will have a tremendous impact.

In 2016, Aurora Health Care Foundation launched the $1.5 million Renew, Restore, Rebuild campaign to help strengthen Aurora Behavioral Health Services’ substance abuse and recovery programs at the Wauwatosa campus. The campaign will support the creation of more rooms, specialty programs and a new Serenity Garden. For more information or to make a gift, CLICK HERE.

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Thinking about summer? Think Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer!

Imagine it’s a beautiful, summer Saturday morning. What do you plan to do?

We bet you’ll have a list a mile long! But let us suggest a good reason to procrastinate on those to-dos – one that’s fun and brings the community together – and truly helps those taking on the toughest care.

The Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer

This year, a walk has been added to Fond du Lac, so now there are 10 Lombardi Walks to Tackle Cancer across the state. From Green Bay to Kenosha, you can help raise money that stays in your community to help those fighting cancer.


Why it’s important

Every one of us has been touched by cancer in some way. Maybe a friend or family member has had cancer. Maybe that person is you. The point is, you know how hard cancer treatment is on a person.

“It’s the little things that make a difference,” says Jolene Halvorsen, an Aurora Health Care Foundation development coordinator who’s based in Burlington. “Someone who needs cancer treatment shouldn’t have to drive long distances to get great care.”

Rachel Rupnik, another Foundation development coordinator based in Two Rivers, agrees. “Raising money that stays local helps ensure that the care people need is close to their homes,” she says. “And it adds up quickly – people in your area really benefit from your help.”

LCRF_Logos_fnl_Color-NoLocationTackle cancer as a team!

You can take a look at all locations and dates here. Plus, you can find ways to start  and join teams, download useful tools and more. You can also call Michael Johnston at 414-219-4769 if you need help.

The key takeaway is that you are one of the champions that make us the strongest team in the fight against cancer.

“No matter where you are, it’s such a fun way to help people in your community,” Michael says. “Who knew that just walking with friends could bring so much hope?”

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