The Susan M. Tillis Foundation is LKNConnect’s Outstanding Non-Profit for May 2020. We have learned where the inspiration for the foundation came from, how the foundation was born, about its annual red, white, and bundled shower, and read on to learn about the extraordinary woman who is their Board Chair. — EH Stafford, Managing Editor




Meet Our Board Chair

Danica Thomas, Army Wife turned Caregiver turned Widow. At the age of 21, Danica was faced with a hard role as a Caregiver when her husband, Allen, was severely wounded in Afghanistan while on his third combat deployment. He survived the initial explosion but he came home with one less lung, 4 chest tubes, third degree burns and a traumatic brain injury. Quickly Danica took to his bedside at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and began to learn how to take care of the aftermath of war that was brought home to her young family, all while pregnant with their first daughter. Their young family faced many ups and downs in the following years post-injury. Medical care was hit or miss and transitioning from Active Duty to civilian life while navigating through VA became a much harder task than she ever imagined. In the Spring of 2013, they welcomed their second daughter. At age 24, Danica was now a wife, a mother of two and a Caregiver to a Catastrophically Wounded Junior Enlisted Soldier.



“No one could have ever prepared me for this.”



After narrowly escaping death and while in the process of physically recovering from his wounds, Staff Sergeant Thomas lost his long battle to Suicide. “He came home different, his body was not the same, his life was not the same and his brain was not the same.” Danica’s world immediately fell around her, and she was left to parent their daughters, both under the age of 2, alone.


Life After Suicide

“Danica has lived the life of a Military spouse. She knows firsthand what is most impactful in supporting our junior enlisted families and how to best deliver that support. She brings insight and knowledge that none of us as civilians can offer. It is an honor to have her serve and represent the Foundation.”  — Susan M. Tillis




Danica was elected to serve as the Board Chair of the Susan M. Tillis Foundation in the summer of 2019. Since the death of her husband, she has found a passion for supporting Military Families and Veterans. She is committed to working tirelessly to help those who serve now, and those who have served in the past. Danica finds joy in being hands-on with the Foundation and often includes her daughters as well. She speaks to educate the public on Veteran Suicide and the effects it has on our Military Families. She volunteers with our partner, The Independence Fund, at their Operation RESILIENCY retreats to prevent suicide and has made it her mission to save as many lives as possible.


“It is the honor of a lifetime to have the opportunity to serve our Military Families.” — Danica Thomas



For more information

Visit the Susan M Tillis Foundation website.


Photos By James Piedad



Susan Tillis was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She graduated with a degree in Marketing Management from Bentley College in Waltham, Ma.  Susan and her family moved to North Carolina in 1998.

Susan began a successful career in real estate in 2005 where she is currently the branch leader for the Allen Tate Davidson office. 

During her travels around the state, Susan began to realize that our military families needed help which led to the founding of the Susan M Tillis Foundation. Susan has been recognized for her community volunteer work, especially with the military with a Top Woman in Business award in the Charlotte region, the Allen Tate Community Service Award and the NC Serves Award  for her work with military families and veterans. Susan continues to travel the state as a volunteer spokesperson, visiting and supporting the military, veterans and their families. During her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, especially her first grandchild, Sawyer Marie.



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