Diana Rider

Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program assists post-9/11 service members with a 70% or greater disability rating, with deference for those with post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries, by helping them find meaningful trades, careers, or small business opportunities through short-term vocational education and apprenticeships with trade experts.

Semper Fi Fund’s staff works directly with motivated service members to assess readiness, personal strengths and professional interests; if a good match exists to the trades and careers offered, Apprenticeship Program staff help participants develop training/education plans, timelines and goals. This may include vocational training, community college, and/or a series of workshops. Once training is complete, staff will then help service members find apprenticeship opportunities and help establish mentoring relationships with leading industry experts.

Hero Highlight

Diana Rider joined the Army in 1995 and served a year of her contract before going into the Individual Ready Reserves until 2003, when she felt the need to go back into the Army to fulfill her duty to her country after the September 11, 2001 attacks on our nation. Shortly after, Diana deployed to Iraq.  After a year in country defending our freedoms, Diana and her fellow soldiers returned stateside where she continued her career as a high school english teacher.  

Soon after returning home, Diana explains, “I spent a lot of years in denial that I had any sort of problems resulting from my time in Iraq.  It wasn’t until 2010 after I lost my job, and couldn’t seem to keep any others that I decided I needed to get some help.  I turned to the VA and began counseling. I was determined to be 100% unemployable due to PTSD with major depressive disorder and MST (military sexual trauma).”

Through long counseling sessions filled with twists, turns and major road blocks, Diana started to learn how to manage her PTSD and MST symptoms. However, after five gruelling years of treatment, she still wasn’t able to return to work. That’s when Diana turned to the Semper Fi Fund.

“I was trying to find something that would help bring peace to my mind, something to quiet the demons.  I’ve taken up bike riding with a bike funded through Semper Fi Fund. I signed up for the horsemanship program earlier this year and found joy. The calm of being on the back of such majestic animals is like nothing I’ve felt in the last 13 years. It was during my first Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program clinic that I was asked what I would do to earn money if I could. The first thing that popped into my head was baking. I love to bake and decorate cakes. When I learned of the Apprenticeship Program and that it could help me do something I love and help me feel as if I was earning my keep, I was finally excited again.”

Within a week of being home after that trip, the Semper Fi Fund provided Diana with guidelines for the program and a schedule of tasks to create her own home-based business. A week after that, Diana’s bakery, Lillie Pad Creations, was born and officially operating out her home kitchen.

“The Semper Fi Fund staff has been there every step of the way helping and encouraging me to find what works best for me and what I’m able to do. When I’ve been overwhelmed or needed advice, they have been there for me, guiding me, calming me down, helping me to focus.”

Diana strives to make a few top-notch cakes a month, “I know that is enough for me to feel as if I’m doing something while at the same time not increasing my stress with the business aspect of running Lillie Pad Creations. I do plan on joining the Chamber of Commerce and hopefully getting my name out there more. I’ve created a Facebook page and have a good bit of traffic on there.”

The Semper Fi Fund provided Diana with a grant to  purchase packaging materials for her beautiful cakes, which helped her business gain a more professional look. One thing Diana could use to help make her business more successful is an industrial counter mixer; but for now, her KitchenAid is getting the job done.

“Before the Apprenticeship Program, I was bored of being at home all day. I felt worthless. I was lost, going through a divorce and looking for direction. With one question, “What would you do to earn money if you could do anything? I found a purpose again. I have direction. I have goals other than just getting out of bed. Creating cakes for others brings me joy. Seeing the happiness on their faces brings me happiness. Earning money by creating something with my own hands gives me worth again. That’s because of the Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program.”

You can visit Diana’s home bakery website at: https://www.facebook.com/LilliePadCreations

Or if you are interested in placing an order, please contact Diana at: LilliePadCreations@gmail.com .

To learn more about Diana and how these types of programs assist our nation’s veterans visit:
Semper Fi Fund Apprenticeship Program FAQs