Grand Canyon University- Guest Speaker Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Catherine Brubaker shares her personal story of surviving a criminal sexual assault in which she sustained an injury that resulted in losing excessive amounts of blood which caused an anoxic brain injury.

Her heart began to fail and her body failed to regulate blood pressure.  Every time she would stand, her blood pressure would drop and her body would no longer regulate.  She was eventually diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachychardia syndrome.

She received a pacemaker and relies on medication to regulate her heart and blood pressure daily and for the rest of her life.

After learning how to walk and talk again. She was a passenger in a not at fault head on collision and again a survivor of a traumatic brain injury.

She was hospitalized, then went to inpatient rehab and eventually to outpatient rehabilitation. Speech, physical and occupational therapy, counseling, neurologists, and numerous physicians became a way of life for over three years.

Catherine she shares her story of recovery, the challenges she faced, the challenges she still faces, and the difference she intends to make.

She shares her achievements and her vision for the future.

Comedian Lineup for Night of Laughter Event

Night Of Laughter, Night of Hope

Whitney Hicks

"Actress/Comedian Performing "The Spoken Word". Whitney Hicks is a poet, actress and media entertainment host. She has performed across the valley and is known for her honest words and relatable reality that she expresses through her poetry. She has acted in various commercials that can be seen on local Phoenix TV. She is a member of the comedy troupe "The 4th Wall" The valley's only performing comedy ensemble.

Gene Moore

Gene is an accomplished stand-up comedian with a fast paced high spirited energy style that brings his life as a Gay Hispanic US Army Veteran to diverse audiences across the western states. He has a unique vision of life in the gay and straight communities as they collide in today’s ever changing world. He is also a successful web series host, pod cast writer- producer and corporate emcee.

Maryanne Marttini

Maryanne Marttini   Maryanne is one of only a dozen transgender women comedians in the U.S. Her comedy places a face, in front of thousands of people from coast to coast, that have never met a transgender person. She has turned the trauma of growing up in the fifties and sixties, as a transgender girl, to laughter and understanding. Her life, as a “special lady,” creates a unique look at the world from a perspective that we can all laugh about, right along with her. Maryanne was a part of the first season of the award winning television series “Transparent,” and the last season of “Glee.” Originally from Seattle, she has been proud Arizona residents for thirteen years.

Erin Ontkos

Erin Ontko was raised in Western PA and lives in Phoenix where she enjoys performing all over the valley. Erin has participated in contests and festivals around the country. She regales audiences with her stories of single life and educating Arizonans on Amish culture. Erin has opened for several nationally touring comics, produced independent shows and runs a weekly open mic out of ThirdSpace in Phoenix.

Trike Recipients

Crystal has Arnold Chiari Malformation. Her cerebellum was identified as falling down 28.6 mm into her neck. This causes her to fall on a consistent basis. She began to drop things and increasingly lost coordination.

She underwent two brain surgeries to correct the issue. She can no longer drive and dependent on her spouse. She has severe balance issues and is homebound. Her instability and balance issues leave her with a lack of mobility. Her physician has cleared her for a recumbent trike. A recumbent trike would give Crystal a sense of freedom and independence.

UPDATE! APRIL 20, 2015

Thanks to the generosity of donors from, Crystal’s and a collaborative effort between, and Crystal McPhaul is now the proud owner of a recumbent trike! Crystal now has the tools to propel herself to better quality of life!

Thank you for helping us reach our goal and for contributing as a partner!

It’s time for a national conversation about brain injury. It’s time for community leaders, businesses and organizations to work together to change this culture to better understand the needs of survivors and caregivers with this invisible disability.

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