The Light of Hope Breakfast and Awards Celebration was sponsored by the Pinnacle Entertainment Foundation and L’Auberge Casino Resort Lake Charles and was held on September 27, 2018 at L’Auberge Casino Resort. Britni Tommasi, Bonnie Vaughan, and Kari Hankins were each honored with the Light of Hope award.
Britni Tommasi was born and raised in Southwest Louisiana and has spent her adult life giving back to the community that raised her. She is a graduate of McNeese State University with a M.A. in psychology. Britini is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and the creator of Behavior Intervention Resources, an ABA therapy resource for children with autism. Britini’s accomplishments could be listed all morning long, but I think it’s most powerful to hear about her through the words of someone she has helped. This is an excerpt from a letter written by the mother of a child who Britini has worked with.
“My child displayed the signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 2. After my own research, I learned that ABA therapy was going to be the key to increasing her quality of life. I began trying to get her enrolled in any ABA program that would accept her, which proved to be more difficult than expected. Finally, I received a phone call from Britni Tommasi. I was silent as her calm and reassuring voice explained to me the process of my child being enrolled in Behavior Intervention Resources’ program. At the end of the conversation, she asked if I had any questions and for the first time I was speaking to someone without having to defend or advocate for my child. When my child began her program she could not communicate verbally and we could not understand her non-verbal forms of communication. Within months, we were able to communicate with her. She is now a thriving five year old, that communicates and express how she feels. I love that Britni is not only concerned about the child but the family as well. There have been days that I schedule to speak with her and I am in tears but I always leave with her reassurance and positive words of encouragement. Britni Tommasi is a valuable asset to our community; it takes an extra effort to fulfill my daughter’s day to day needs and we could not have done, and continue to do it, without Britni Tommasi.”
Being a true advocate for children is not about quantity, but quality. Britni opened Behavior Intervention Resources to provide true quality care and services for children so they may live full healthy lives. Though her practice takes most of her time, Britni still finds a way to educate the community on the demands of autism and to raise awareness. Once a month, she hosts a parent education course, after work hours, to help families truly thrive and overcome the challenges associated with autism. Britni understands the vital need for intervention services that protect children who are vulnerable. She has dedicated her life to supporting children with autism and helping them and their families overcome the challenges they face.
Bonnie Vaughan supports and promotes advocacy, “behind the scenes” so to speak, that benefits all of Southwest Louisiana. She is the Director of the Southwest District Law Enforcement Planning Council. Through her position, she advocates for resources to support countless organizations in Southwest Louisiana in their endeavors to help victims of crime across Allen, Beauregard, Cameron, Calcasieu and Jeff Davis parishes.
Bonnie’s support has helped bring vital funding to Southwest Louisiana to provide programs and support to victims of crime including; victim advocacy, child abuse, and domestic violence services. In addition to these programs, she has advocated for funds for the Office of Juvenile Justice, Oasis Women’s Shelter, the District Attorney’s Office in Southwest Louisiana, Allen and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, the District Courts in numerous Jurisdictions in Southwest Louisiana, and many other worthy service organizations in our communities that are dedicated to serving children and families.
The Victims of Crime Act provides vital support for victims of crime beyond just the prosecution of the alleged perpetrator. Because of Bonnie’s dedication she has helped secure vital funding for our community in support of service organizations throughout Southwest louisiana. She has helped provide advocates who guide victims after a crime, a place for children to tell their story of abuse, training for volunteers to support and advocate for children in foster care, and so much more.
She has continuously gone above and beyond the call of duty and has been vital in changing the landscape of how Southwest Louisiana reacts to crime and in the ways we support the victims of those crimes. She has proved invaluable as an advocate on behalf of the programs we offer in our community today.
Before taking her current role at the Southwest District Law Enforcement Planning Council Bonnie worked for the Lake Charles Police Department for twenty-two years supporting law enforcement.
In addition, she was heavily involved in the Iowa Soccer Association, serving as President of the Association and also coaching her children’s teams for many years. During her tenure with the Soccer Association she went above and beyond her role. From coaching teams to mowing the soccer fields, her dedication shining in everything she did.
Kari Hankins, through her career as a nurse practitioner, saw too many young ladies making potentially life-altering decisions based on misleading information. She saw a need to educate youth about human trafficking and internet safety in this digital age and she took it upon herself to fill that void of knowledge so they could make educated decisions about their futures.
Her passion to help and educate youth led to the establishment of “Truth, Facts and Lies,” a seven-session educational program addressing bullying, digital footprint, online solicitation and human trafficking, dating and relationship abuse, the teenage brain and addiction, and teen, sex and the law. Teaching the material is no easy feat for any age group, but it is especially crucial to talk to middle and high schoolers who are often the targets of those issues. Kari works hard to advocate for children by using her platform to educate people on how serious and wide spread these issues are, and how prominent they are in our own community. Kari’s curriculum is not only used throughout Calcasieu Parish, it’s now extending to other parish’s across the state. Kari’s passion for keeping children safe stems from being a mother of three. She recognizes that her knowledge and resources can not only help keep her own children safe, but also the children throughout this community and beyond.
Kari saw an issue that was impacting our community and our teens and decided to take to heart the mantra of “be the change you want to see in the world”. Her innovative program has touched the lives of school children throughout Southwest Louisiana and beyond, bringing true awareness and change into their lives.
Kari Hankins is a graduate of Barbe high school and a nurse practitioner. In addition to establishing and delivering “Truth, Facts, and Lies”, she has worked with Brewer’s Plate to support the St. Nicholas Center and is a member of the Junior League of Lake Charles. Kari is also a parent volunteer with ICCS and a proud supporter of the St. Martin de Porres’ Meals for Moms program.