Surf City Business Owner Overcomes Brain Injury, Adapts to ‘New Normal’ and Launches Nonprofit

By Sarah Hodgson | Jul 10, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill Nancy Norton, owner of The Good Life in Surf City.

Surf City, NJ — In 2015, Nancy Norton, owner of The Good Life in Surf City, was hit by a car and suffered a concussion, a brain injury from which it would take her almost four years to recover. The light at the end of the dark, seemingly-infinite tunnel of rehabilitation? The launch of her nonprofit “Do Good Foundation,” which brings mindfulness, gratitude and meditation to children.

As a former market research director for L’Oréal, Norton would pore over spreadsheets and numbers, analyzing data and digits on a regular basis. After her accident, however, Norton found it hard to focus on even the simplest of tasks. Her executive functioning, cognitive functioning, memory and vestibular movements were affected. She suffered severe headaches, struggled to complete basic chores without losing her balance and had trouble taking inventory at her Surf City boutique. For about three months following the incident, Norton was forced to remove herself from work.

Over months and months, she made visits to a variety of specialists: neurologists, head injury physicians and vestibular treatment professionals. On her list was the renowned Amen Clinics in New York, founded by Daniel Amen, a physician who served as a consultant for the 2013 Will Smith film “Concussion.” She even went as far as Texas for treatments, nearly a year after her accident in the summer of 2016.

Following treatment in Texas, ever-the-researcher Norton found specialists in Edison who could help with her persistent headaches. Little by little, she was making her way back to a life of normalcy, or so she thought. Three years after her accident in 2018, when Norton had finally felt like she was learning to manage her relentless concussion symptoms, she was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, an inner ear disorder associated with severe vertigo. She was forced to partake in vestibular rehabilitation for a second time.

“At one point I said, ‘What did I do wrong? What did I not learn the first time around? There’s gotta be another lesson here and I missed it.’”

Since her concussion and diagnosis, Norton finally feels confident about returning to work at The Good Life this summer. When asked if she felt better, she laughed and said, “I hope so.”

“I may get de-focused, but that’s OK. I just pull myself back and refocus.”

Cruising along recovery road, Norton finally has time to redirect her efforts to her pre-accident project: the Do Good Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that brings mindfulness, kindness, gratitude and positive thinking to young kids. The initiative will help children deal with daily struggles, self-esteem issues and anxiety. Through mindfulness training and cathartic exercises, Norton’s Do Good Foundation could help eliminate behavioral issues and even improve academic performance.

Norton, an avid practitioner of meditation herself, was inspired to start the Do Good Foundation years ago, when her 10-year-old grandson asked her to help him meditate. It was then that Norton realized that anxiety and depression aren’t exclusive to adults.

This summer, she’s been invited by the Toms River School District to bring mindfulness to middle school-aged kids. She hopes that her positivity training will help children the same way it helped her overcome her head injury.

For the local boutique owner, mindfulness and meditation were health management methods long before her accident. “I’m so thankful that I had it as part of my practice, because it allowed me to be more focused, more centered, more balanced, and not let the inner gremlin take over. That’s what it’s all about.”

So were the accident and Meniere’s diagnosis fate? Was Norton meant to endure this struggle so that she’d be better equipped to launch and run her nonprofit?

“That’s what all of my friends say,” she said. “But without a doubt, I’m better equipped now. I just keep thinking, all of it had to get put on hold. I think that’s kind of why I got hit. To slow me down.” To get it right.

While some may fail, understandably, at maintaining a positive attitude through hurdles like the ones Norton’s been dealt, she asserts that optimism is essential for healing. Norton is gracious, humorous, soft spoken yet deliberate, projecting her positivity in a calming, luminescent orb around her. She practices what she preaches.

“When you hold onto that anger, you do not heal. That’s the bottom line.”

— Sarah Hodgson

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