Kentucky Wesleyan graduate Jessica Collins Allen ’00 will be featured on NBC’s Today Show on Tuesday, Sept. 27, in support of the Elizabeth Dole Foundation’s Hidden Heroes campaign. Jessica and her family starred in two public service announcements with campaign chair Tom Hanks. She and Hanks will appear together on the program, and she will share her experiences as a military caregiver. Matt Lauer, a Hidden Heroes Ambassador, will conduct the interview.
She married soldier husband Chaz Allen in 2001. On Jan. 22, 2011, while on patrol in Afghanistan, he stepped on an IED (improvised explosive device), instantly losing both of his legs. On the foundation’s website, she explained, “Being a military caregiver is a big responsibility. I manage appointments, finances and medications. My family cannot go anywhere easily, as we have to consider if homes, hotels and businesses are wheelchair accessible.” The Allens have two daughters, Deryn (14), a cheerleader, and Ryann (11), a ballerina. They live in McMinnville,Tenn. Jessica is a self-employed accredited financial counselor, and as a 2014 Elizabeth Dole Fellow, brought attention to “the millions of men, women and children who care for our nation’s wounded warriors.”
Jessica was featured in the Fall 2012 Kentucky Wesleyan alumni magazine. She discussed her volunteer work to help guide the families of wounded soldiers to appropriate non-profits for resources. She has been publically recognized by President and Mrs. Obama for her significant commitment to soldiers and caregivers. “People’s lives are shattered; I just try to help them put their lives back together,” she shared in the magazine. She also reflected that her years at Kentucky Wesleyan College helped her develop the strong sense of community that is so important to her current life and work.
“Military families feel isolated; we know that from our own experience,” Jessica says. “I encourage civilians to find ways to help military families. Don’t assume their needs are being met. Reach out, do something to brighten someone’s day.” She says life is full with two active daughters. “Chaz is our miracle. I have my husband, and our girls have their dad. We are savoring life together.” Her brother, Jarrett Collins, is a scholar-athlete at Kentucky Wesleyan and plays Panther football.
According to The Elizabeth Dole Foundation, over 5.5 million family members across America face enormous challenges every day in caring for members of the military and gravely injured veterans. The Elizabeth Dole Foundation was established to inspire a national movement to more effectively support the needs of wounded warriors and their caregivers. The Hidden Heroes campaign seeks to shed light on issues facing America’s Hidden Heroes, and the Hidden Heroes Fund has been established to raise $10 million to serve and support military and veteran caregivers.