Brenda Pfohl: My Favorite CoFounder


This past Saturday we held our third annual Taste of David’s Refuge.  It was an elegant, extravagant, food and fun filled evening celebrating the legacy of David’s life and the impact of David’s Refuge in our community.  Our Executive Director, Kate Houck, wanted to invite someone special to be the key note speaker.  She wanted someone who was passionate for David’s Refuge, someone who had “skin in the game”, someone who could clearly and enthusiastically communicate the importance of our mission to Care for the Caregiver, someone who had lived the life of a caregiver, someone who knew David, and someone who had poured their life into others who also were caregivers of children with special needs or wrestling with a life threatening disease.  She searched from New York to California and only one candidate met these rigorous expectations: David’s mom and cofounder of David’s Refuge, my beautiful wife, Brenda Pfohl.

Brenda did such a wonderful job sharing our story and thanking our Board of Directors, our volunteers, and our financial supporters.  The following is the message she shared.  I hope you enjoy it!

Doing Things We Can’t;
That’s How We Get To Do Them

Thank you Kate!  I am so honored to have this opportunity to stand here and look out at all of you who have made David’s Refuge available to so many parents.Looking at where we are now, it’s hard to believe that 5 years ago, David’s Refuge didn’t exist.

Warren and I, along with our boys, walked the painful journey of Batten Disease. We watched helplessly as David was diagnosed at 8 years old with this horrible, untreatable disease, then helped him adjust as he slowly lost all his abilities. In spite of his incapacities, David pressed on to do just about everything (and more) than most people do in their entire lifetimes.  He had this as his motto:

I keep doing things I can’t; that how I get to do them.

A few years after David passed, we felt a desire to use our story to help other families still on the journey.  With God’s help and the inspiration of this incredible boy who believed in doing the impossible, a dream was born: to create a place of refuge to care for parents still on that journey of caring for their children with life threatening conditions or special needs.

Never having started or run a business, we wondered how were we ever going to do this? It seemed impossible.  David’s motto cheered us on: “just keep doing what you can’t; that’s how you’ll do it.”

So we began by converting our home into a 5-star B&B.  With the help of some amazing volunteers, we created a logo, a website, a marketing plan, an application process, developed a (non-program) program, pulled together a board of directors, and applied for our 501c3 status. We even learned to be Innkeepers!

We had no idea whether anyone would come.

The first year we hosted 43 retreats in our home and people just kept signing up. It was incredible to see moms and dads come, totally exhausted and weary and leave a few days later restored and renewed. It was working!

By the end of the year we felt exhausted from being Innkeepers, and overwhelmed by the need.  We thought, how are we ever going to keep doing this?  We prayed for help and remembered David’s words: “just keep on doing the things you can’t; that’s how you’ll get to do them.”

That’s when God brought us Rory Lawrence to help us with our guest relations; this took an enormous load off our shoulders.

We continued moving forward but quickly realized to meet the need, we had to grow.  So again we prayed and remembered David’s words: Keep doing the things you can’t, that’s how you get to do them.” That’s when we came up with the idea to host our guests in B&Bs and Inns. We soon began partnering with our first B&B, Mary’s Meadow. Since then we have grown to partnering with 17 B&Bs from Hamilton to Rochester.

We grew from 53 retreats in 2013 to over a 100 the next year. As the applications kept coming in we realized we couldn’t keep doing this alone. How will we be able to continue? Again: “I keep doing things I can’t; that how I get to do them.”

So the Board brought in Lis Fournier to help us develop a Strategic Plan. From there we set out to hire another staff person. God brought us Kate Houck, who initially served as our Development Director then more recently as our Executive Director.

In order to keep doing what we can’t, Kate has brought on Sarah Watson to our team as our Administrative Assistant and grown our Board and our team of consistent volunteers.

Our growth has continued, serving over 150 families this year with a projection of 250 in 2017!

Even though we have a great staff, the truth is David’s Refuge could not be where it is today without each one of you and our many many wonderful volunteers.  So Warren and I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for helping us “do the things we can’t” so together we can keep caring for the caregiver.

(Shhh…This Sunday is Brenda’s birthday.  If you have a minute would you please wish her a happy birthday and tell her how she has blessed you, your family, or someone you know!  I’m blessed to call her my best friend, wife, and fellow cofounder.  I love you Brenda.)