Women on the move, making a difference: 'Dames Gone Wild'

Three Florida women crisscross the country doing good deeds for strangers and communities. Photo: Dames Gone Wild in Minneapolis: CaroHasbrouck, Sharon Saraga, and Joyce Claflin

TAMPA, Fla., November 15, 2012 — Things were going pretty well for mortgage banking loan officer Carol Hasbrouck. Twenty-three years under her belt, great reviews and a stable income.

But then came the story we are all too familiar with. As with so many attached to the housing market and caught in the economic downturn, Hasbrouck, 56 years old, heard the fatal word: “Terminated.”

Now unfettered, she went right out to find a new job in the industry. And then it hit her. “On my way to an interview, the thought occurred to me, ‘You are looking for a job you no longer like and that’s really stupid,’” recalls Hasbrouck.

So she began thinking about her true passions and came up with travel and volunteering. Next she had to figure out how to put those interests into action. 

Joyce and Carol with Cody, N.E.W. Curative Rehab in Green Bay, Wis.

Amazingly just three days later, Hasbrouck learned about a father and son team who had taken off earlier this year on a worldwide trip with the goal of stopping in twelve countries over twelve months and engaging in twelve community service projects.

Mapping Her Path

“I knew if they could do it, so could I,” she says. “I got out my Road Atlas, mapped a route to Minneapolis to see my ninety-two year old Auntie Bets and then across the US and back down the Eastern seaboard.”

She came home and asked her roommate, Joyce Claflin, age 60, if she’d mind watching Hasbrouck’s cat while she was away. But Claflin said no — she wanted to go too.

And so Dames Gone Wild (see video below) was born, along with third member Sharon Saraga (who was unable to travel full time with Hasbrouck and Calflin, but served as team anchor, and is still active with the duo today).

First the women defined their mission:  provide services and financial resources to organizations that help people, pets and planets; increase happiness, connection and love to all; and repurpose people, especially women, who feel life is over due to experiencing a loss like divorce or death of a spouse.

Then came logistics. After the destination cities were roughly determined, the women put the word out to friends, family and social media contacts. Funding came primarily from generous donations from those same people as well as perfect strangers.

“We stayed with host families everywhere we went and we served the organizations in their town that they believed in,” says Hasbrouck. “We had to recalculate a few times but everything always worked out because we absolutely believed it would.”

Street Corner Hugs for the Asking

Once on the road, one of the most favorite service projects for both women was probably the easiest, standing on street corners and giving out free hugs (Saraga was able to join them for several days in Minneapolis, offering hugs as well). 

“To connect and hug someone you do not even know is such a blessing,” notes Claflin. “I hope the people we hugged were touched in some way for it has truly touched me on a deeper level. We love to tell people ‘hug it forward.’”

There were other tender moments as well.

In Green Bay, Wis., the women spent time volunteering at the N.E.W. Curative Rehab Center, an adult day care facility for those with brain injuries, impairments and developmental disabilities. It proved to be a pivotal experience for both.

“I had no idea how much it would affect me to be with these people,” says Hasbrouck, recalling one individual at the center named Al, who was in a wheelchair, contorted, and unable to control his bodily functions. As they sat around the table, one of the aides said something amusing. 

“And Al, with his head hanging almost all the way the table, smiled and his eyes lit up just like yours and mine do,” says Hasbrouck. “Before I met Al, I was afraid to look at people like Al.  After meeting Al, I will never look away again.”

More Chapters to Come: Pay It Forward

In all, Claflin and Hasbrouck were on the road for 112 days and traveled 10,000 miles, stopping in 29 cities and serving 33 nonprofit organizations. Not everything was perfect.

There were some stops where hosts changed their minds at the last minute, an old DUI record on Claflin that necessitated re-routing and dropping Canada from the itinerary, and just missing home. But the rewards far superseded any small pitfalls.

The women are now back in St. Petersburg, Fla., writing a book on their adventure, setting up chapters across the country  and spreading their story especially among women over age fifty who are attempting to redefine their lives as they age.

“You don’t have to leave home with only one eighth of the money you need, travel 10,000 miles and pack up your belongings every four days to live a passionate fulfilled life,” counsels Hasbrouck. 

“What you do need to do is figure out what makes you excited about life and go after it. Go help someone else who is less fortunate than you without expecting anything in return. You’ll be amazed at the abundant blessings you will receive.”


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Sheryl Kay

Sheryl Kay is a twenty-year veteran print and photo journalist covering a plethora of subjects internationally, including medical/healthcare, politics, new business/technology, LGBT issues, travel, and religion. 

 

In my "spare" time, I'm actively involved with my two children, community volunteer hiking events, a spirited dalmatian, and cultivating my organic garden. I can be reached via email and on facebook

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