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AARP & Sky Blossom: The Alvarado Family

Start Date:3/18/2021

Start Time:7:00 PM PDT

Duration:60 minutes

Abstract:

Sky Blossom is a raw, candid look at the 24.5 million teens and twenty-somethings caring for a veteran parent or grandparent. Caring for family with tough medical conditions, they stay at home doing things often seen only in hospitals. They are cheerleaders, work part time, and go to college — but also live double lives — quietly growing up as America’s next greatest generation.

In tonight's excerpt, we meet the Alvarado Family, residing in California. “He was too shy to give me his number,” Rocio laughs. They wrote letters during deployment, lucky to marry when he came home. Then Brian’s hair and skin fell away. Rhianna is shy too. But not. She fights bullies for herself and for Dad. This event is live only and a recording will not be available after the event concludes.

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Speakers

Alvarado Family

Preteen Rhianna Alvarado and her father, Brian, are always at the center of attention when in public. They draw “the ugly stares,” as Rocio, Brian’s wife calls them. These days, Brian, a Marine Corps veteran, is no longer the only one who protects the vulnerable. It’s his daughter, Rhianna, who now defends him. “A lot of people get bullied,” she says, “And it’s not right.” Brian is one of an estimated tens of thousands of victims of burn pits, used to dispose of everything from plastics to chemicals while he served in Iraq. Rocio is a tireless caretaker for both Brian and Rihanna. As Rocio puts it, “These are my vows, to take care of him, to care of each other in sickness and in health.”

Joseph Sanchez

State Director

AARP New Mexico

Joseph Sánchez, PhD, MBA, is the State Director of AARP New Mexico. Prior to joining AARP New Mexico, Joseph led government and public relations for the University of New Mexico College of Nursing and has spent his career as an advocate for k-12 education and nursing. His previous leadership roles included serving as Executive Director of the New Mexico Center for Nursing Excellence, where he worked with various organizations, including AARP’s Center to Champion Nursing and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to increase the number of health care professionals through collaboration with stakeholders and influencers. He is a Veteran and served as a commander in the Naval Reserves. His academic career includes a Doctor of Philosophy in Human Development and Family Studies from the University of New Mexico, Masters and Bachelors of Business Administration from New Mexico Highlands University, a Certificate in Naval Integrated Logistics from the Navy Supply Corps School, Athens, Georgia and Advanced Change Management Certification.

Alex Lo

Producer

Sky Blossom

Alex Lo is an award-winning journalist and producer. Currently at NBC News National, he is among the “top 40 Young Journalists in America” as named by AAJA. Alex's work in production for NBC News, the NBA, and NHL have taken him across the globe. His work producing Sky Blossom, an Academy Award qualifying documentary feature, is in honor of the caregivers in his family.

Starlyn Lara

Veteran Service Officer

Nation's Finest

I served nearly twelve years on active duty in the U.S. Army from 1995-2007, achieving the rank of Staff Sergeant and was assigned to multiple duty stations, as well as deployments that included Operation Joint Forge in Bosnia and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq. I was awarded the Combat Action Badge and two Meritorious Service Medals for my service. Upon completion of my active duty commitment, I earned a BA in Business Management with an emphasis in Organizational Communication from California State University, East Bay. I now serve as a Veteran Service Officer (VSO) for Washoe County, NV and work with Nation’s Finest. I am accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs aiding veterans, their dependents, and survivors. This includes not only applying for federal and state benefits but also providing resources related to the following: Compensation and Pension, Health Care, Education & Training, Employment, Burial & Survivor’s Benefits, Housing, Transportation and Military Records. Prior to working with Nation’s Finest I served as the Women Veteran Program Manager and Community Educator for the San Francisco-based veteran service organization, Swords to Plowshares. I developed and deliver the Institute for Veteran Policy's (IVP) Combat to Community curriculum, a series of cultural competency trainings for community partners including clinicians, faith-based communities, law enforcement, attorneys, judges, social service providers and others to address the common gaps in understanding military culture and the challenges veterans face. I have been a guest lecturer and a presenter as well as panelist at many conventions and conferences discussing my personal and professional experiences.

Ariana Del Negro

Fellow

Elizabeth Dole Foundation

Ariana Del Negro is a military caregiver to her husband, a retired Army Infantry Captain wounded in combat. Since her husband’s injury in 2006, Ms. Del Negro has been an advocate in the national movement to increase awareness and resources for survivors of military-related traumatic brain injury (TBI) and their caregivers. Ms. Del Negro’s advocacy includes Congressional testimony highlighting gaps and barriers related to government systems and cultural constraints, as well as the need for ongoing research specific to TBI and to the development of evidence-based support structures for military caregivers. Ms. Del Negro has also participated as a peer reviewer for the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program and for the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. She served as the 2014-2015 Elizabeth Dole Foundation Caregiver Fellow for the state of Montana and remains involved with the Foundation as a contributing Alumni Caregiver Fellow. Ms. Del Negro also contributes her time as a member of the PsychArmor Caregiver Advisory Committee. Ms. Del Negro has over 20 years of professional experience as a medical writer, editor, and business strategist in the field of continuing medical education, including nine years with WebMD Medscape. Throughout her career, Ms. Del Negro has overseen the planning, development, and implementation of medical education courses, including serial and curriculum-based projects with measured outcomes. Her fields of expertise include cardiology, neurology, rheumatology, and immunology. Originally from Bethesda, Maryland, Ms. Del Negro holds a Bachelor of Arts from Haverford College. She and her husband currently reside in Missoula, Montana.
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