About Me

About Me

Collage of childhood scrapbook photos of Charis Santillie with her family
Charis Santillie between two oak trees, wearing a manta ray pendant
Collage of scrapbook photos of Charis Santillie with her family
Charis Santillie between two oak trees, wearing a manta ray pendant
Collage of scrapbook photos of Charis Santillie with her family
Collage of scrapbook photos of Charis Santillie with her family

Take a Few Minutes to Hear My Story

(It's only 5 minutes)

My Story

It was 1994—the summer I turned 19. We were celebrating my Dad’s 50th birthday with a hot air balloon ride. It was a hot day, 107 degrees, but we were so excited, we went anyway, and it was a beautiful ride.

And then something went terribly wrong. When we came in for the landing, the pilot knew we were coming in too fast and told us “Hold on tight! We’re gonna hit hard!”

The balloon basket hit the ground way too hard and violently bounced. My Dad directed each of us to a corner for safety. I remember seeing him try to hold on to the side of the basket because there weren’t enough corners. 

In an instant, we went from a magical experience to bracing for impact.

The next time we hit the ground, Dad was thrown out, and a rope got wrapped around his ankle. I remember looking over the edge and seeing him suspended in the air, hanging upside down below us. 

He was dragged the length of a football field, through rows of corn and alfalfa. I was screaming, hysterical, and felt completely out of control.

The next thing I knew, we were on the ground, racing over to Dad who was face down and not moving. When they turned him over, his face was battered and clods of dirt were shoved up his nose. He was conscious, still alive, but his body was lifeless.

Our eyes made contact, and to calm my fear, the first thing he said to me was, “You should see the other guy.”

This crash landing left my Dad with a broken neck, me with a broken heart, and my Mom an alcoholic.

With my Dad paralyzed, everything changed. Spinning out of control and needing to avoid my feelings, I managed my internal crisis by staying ridiculously busy—making me feel safe and giving me the illusion of control.

Before this accident, I had an idyllic childhood as my parents achieved the American Dream. 

They built a gourmet pasta business from scratch that started in our kitchen and within 7 years they had 40 employees. They won Washington State Small Business of the Year and even flew to DC to receive their award in the Rose Garden from then-President Bush.

Inspired by my high-achieving parents, I also became a high achiever—in High School, I was Valedictorian, Class President, voted "Most Artistic" and "Most Likely to Succeed"—until the accident flipped that world upside down.

When I came home for visits from college, I found bottles of alcohol my Mom had stashed away. I couldn’t get through a single visit without multiple calls to my therapist to help me navigate the hurricane of emotions that continued to flood me.

My Dad was the one who fell out of the balloon, yet my entire family was now falling apart. My Dad’s loss of mobility was the first in a series of losses. My parents lost everything—their business, their home, and their pride. 

My Mom spent decades drinking to numb her pain until Thanksgiving of 2013 when her liver failed and we lost her too.

The prior year, at a business conference, after telling my story to a complete stranger with the same name as my father—he serendipitously responded “Charis, I understand your Dad being paralyzed for nearly 20 years—But why are YOU paralyzed?”

At that moment, something literally cracked open inside me. The next day I happened to meet a life coach who would help me peel back my protective layers. 

I had to learn to Trust. Myself. And the world. 

I had to learn how to convince my body and my brain that we could relax; we don’t need to stay afraid and keep bracing for impact.

Over the next 10 years, I threw myself into everything personal development and finally found calm and inner peace.

The accident became the catalyst that led me to a journey of dramatic healing and my inspiration to become a life coach.

I know I’m not the only one who has experienced a life shock that left me questioning all.

We all face challenges—whether it’s with love, with loss, or with life.

Yet, it is possible to redirect the impact of our rough landings into a force for good.

We can absolutely flip the script on our stories. And instead of bracing for impact, we can all start making an impact.

What's your journey?

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A little more about me...

  • Fulfillment & Life Transition Coach
    • Certified Fearless Living® Coach
    • Certified Fearless Trainer
    • Positive Intelligence® Trainer
  • Charis Your Life® Podcast hit the charts
    • Top 40 in Entrepreneurship U.S. Apple Podcasts
    • Top 200 in Business U.S. Apple Podcasts
    • Top Charts in 6 Countries
  • Inspirational Speaker
    • Top 5 in N. America's Largest Speaking Competition
  • Entrepreneur for over 3 decades

Owl Guide You®

Go here to learn why there's an owl in my logo and why I named her Grace. You'll also see fun photos of owls in our yard.

In the Media

Go here for press and media information, including links to podcast interviews, articles, and webinars.

Free Guide

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Illustration of Charis Santillie waving hello with her dog beside her, and a hot air balloon and white clouds in the sky

Behind the Scenes

The center photo of me above was taken amongst the magnificent oak trees around my home. And the gold pendant I'm wearing is a Manta Ray, which is my favorite marine animal (and the way they glide...they are like the owls of the sea). My husband and I did a night dive off the coast of Hawaii years ago, and had stunning Mantas (with 15 foot wingspans) glide above us – they were so close to us that one of them even gently tapped Don on the head.

The other photos are favorite snapshots of me and my Mom and Dad (Diane and Paul), my brothers (Kirk and Kevin), and my husband (Don).