Unsung Santa Cruz: Promoting Self-Care and Community-Care, Karen Gosling Inspires Others

Woman talking
(Dominican Hospital)

Karen Gosling, the director of the Dominican Hospital Wellness Center, is a dedicated and compassionate individual who tirelessly helps others in her community. From assisting people with disabilities during beach outings to organizing fundraisers for local organizations, Karen’s commitment to serving others is unwavering. She inspires those around her to prioritize self-care and make a positive impact on the lives of others, embodying the qualities of a true community hero.

Editor’s note: Lookout’s high school journalism challenge invited students to write a profile of a local unsung hero who is making a positive difference in our community, inspired by our popular “Unsung Santa Cruz” series. Our editing team read and reviewed the submissions, publishing the top ten stories. The top three authors are awarded a $500 scholarship.

I have been volunteering with Karen Gosling since the beginning of the school year in 2022 at the Dominican Hospital Wellness Center. I first met Karen at a Shared Adventures outing called Day on the Beach. Day on the Beach is a full day event where people of all ages (kids to seniors) with disabilities get to have a fun day on the beach. The participants kayak, snorkel, and hang out. Karen was helping people get into kayaks with a lifter she had brought from work. A lifter is a machine that pulls people up out of the wheelchair and helps them sit into a kayak. She was so careful with how she handled and interacted with every participant, and made sure that they were handled correctly to support their disability. She would also put pads and cushions in the kayaks so that the people would be more secure and feel stable in the kayak.

When I saw what she was doing, I was really interested to find out how she learned those skills. I started talking to her about the Dominican Wellness Center, and I realized that Karen spent every day helping so many people and making a difference in so many lives around her.

A few weeks later, my mom and I went on a three-day Rotary bike ride to raise money for teen suicide awareness and resources throughout Santa Cruz County. I volunteered to support the ride by fixing bikes and riding along in a truck where we supported all of the riders. I got to ride with Karen in her truck and we ended up helping people with flat tires, giving them rides when they were tired or injured, and giving them food and water. I got to talk to her all about her job and her life.

Karen grew up in the southeast of England in a small town called Kent and she has one sister. When she was a little girl she played all types of sports like rugby, netball and squash. She played rugby with all of the boys because she was fearless and her dad wanted to be her coach. She learned a lot about sportsmanship through her rugby playing, and went on to be a volleyball star in high school. She always dreamed of being a volleyball player, and then she broke her ankle and had to give it up. Even though this was a really challenging time, she learned a lot about herself and paid close attention to the physical therapy she had to do to get the strength back in her ankle. That was the first time that Karen realized she had an interest in both physical therapy and in helping others regain their strength after an accident.

Karen now runs the Dominican Wellness Center and never stops dreaming of how to expand it to help even more people in the community. She wants to have more services covered by insurance that are offered by the center, to expand services to teach more about healthy eating, lifestyles and mental health, and she wants to empower people to reenter the community even stronger. Said Karen, “I love what I do and I’ll never stop dreaming of ways to keep helping those in our community grow stronger.”

Her patients see this every day in all that she does at the wellness center. According to one of them, “Karen is amazing, kind and always willing to help out with a smile on her face and an outgoing positive personality that makes me feel welcome and really understood.”

Karen also tirelessly volunteers for a number of organizations to help our community grow in strength. Any time someone asks her for help, Karen prioritizes their needs to serve her community in any way that she can. She organizes fundraisers for the Rotary Club, raising money for local groups that include Teen Kitchen Project, Jacob’s Heart, and Monarch Services. She also volunteers with Shared Adventures at a number of events throughout the year that provide opportunities for those with disabilities to enjoy nature and adventures in a safe environment.

Karen has shown me how important it is to take care of myself, and keep myself as strong as I can be, so that I can always give back to my community and then make the whole community stronger. She has shown me that a balance between work and a healthy life can help so many people around me. When I grow up, I want to always work out, eat healthy, and do a job where at the end of the day I know I helped other people make their own lives better. She is a true hero in our community and I feel so lucky to get to have her in my life.