Meet Our Special-Needs Parent of the Day: 2018 List

August 1st: Melissa Nicholson

Nominated by: Kristine Walsh, Kathy Lynn Keith, Belinda Armando, Patrick Walsh, Kim Mcquade, Pamela Jenkins, Heather, Belinda Armando, Stacey Locklear, Veyonna Saltzmann, Elizabeth Velez, Raeann Sparrow, Mary Lou Sheckells, Patrick Walsh, Betty, Debbi McMullen, Kathy Keith, Jeffrey Munyan, and Brittnay
Why she was nominated: (from Kim McQuade)
She takes care of 3 children,  1 with special needs. She works full time and goes to school to better their lives in the future. She is an inspiration to others always.

August 2nd: Tracy Baker

Nominated by: Tammy Dowell
Why she was nominated:
She is an amazing single mom of five children. Her youngest has special needs and she has handled herself with grace and strength and done an amazing job with all of her children, two of which are wonderful grown young men now. She was also able to go to nursing school while raising them on her own in order to provide for her family. Singleness was not in her plan, but she has handled it all beautifully. I believe she deserves the nomination and to be honored for the amazing Mom she is.

August 3rd: Jason & Joann Price

Nominated by: Lynn mcNaughton
Why they were nominated: Jason and Joann are amazing people. They have three adult children of there own and decided to take two young boys thru foster care and then adoption. They have one son, Jon who is an adult living with Autism. Jason and Joann are positively a wonderful advocate and support to Jon. They also have two eleven year old sons with adhd, anxiety,  amongst other challenges. They never give up! They are also actively involved in their church, and community. Jason and Joann deal with a lot in there daily lives but can always be counted on to help others. These two are an amazing couple, and even more amazing parents. These boys are lucky to have found such a great family to call their own!

August 4th: Kelly Reynolds

Nominated by: Arnesia Edwards
Why she was nominated: Kelly is a mom to 6 kids 4 being special needs. They were all adopted from another country. Kelly and her husband Ezra are AMAZING parents. Ezra makes different things to help assist other special needs kids. They deserve to be honored and rewarded!!

Meet Our Special-Needs Parent of the Day (2017 list)

August 1st: Chris and Emily Perrin
nominated by: Jason Crandall, Danielle Perrin, Sara Gorton, Jaime Rios, and Bethany Ehret

Emily and her husband Chris are parents of 3 children. One of their children Hayes has significant special needs. He had an e coli bleed on the brain as an infant. Emily is a loving caregiver to Hayes and her other two children as well. She is an advocate for him to get the care he needs. Their everyday walk is an inspiration. – Jason

August 2nd: Tianna Burtnett
nominated by: Justin, Cherish, and Samantha Connor

Tianna is the devoted mother to a child with Angelman Syndrome. She is the best mother, through all her struggles even at the young age she is, she has pushed through to do everything possible for her son. She never gets to do anything for herself, yet she doesn’t even care or notice, though even through the physical therapy, countless doctors appointments, emergency room visits, meds and feedings she never manages to have time for herself. She is truly amazing and goes above and beyond for her son. – Cherish

August 3rd: Shelley Neustupa
nominated by: Pam, Sandra, and Erin

Shelley dove head first into unknown waters when her son, Cody, was under two years old. She has studied, reviewed, read, talked to professionals, other autistic parents, started a blog, worked insurance companies, worked at her job, maintained her relationship with her older son, husband, family and friends. All to say, the word autistic energized her like no other and she hasn’t stopped in the three years since. Cody was ten years coming to this family – looking back there was a reason. With a brother now 15 years old and parents that have been married for 19 years, Cody is surrounded by love and a maturity many autistic children don’t enjoy.

August 4th: Jessie Ward
nominated by: Linda

Jessie is my daughter and I nominating her because she is my grandson’s advocate and will fight to her dying day for him. He was given a 1% survival and he is almost 5 years old with FT13. All the doctors are amazed at the level of care and love he has been given. He has a great team of 24-hour nurses. Jessie makes sure he gets to see and do everything possible. She wants him to live life to the fullest. There is no stopping her.

August 5th: Molly Salmond
nominated by: Sarah and Diane

My daughter, Molly overcame obstacles before she even became pregnant. She lived up to her dubbed maiden name/title, “The unsinkable Molly Brown”. Baby Bennett is almost 2 yrs old, and because of Molly’s “unsinkable” ways, he has come very far in learning things the hard way, not instinctually or by the average learn and progress, but by constant efforts of her parents exercising, encouraging, teaching, and studying of ways to help their previous child. I’m so very proud of my unsinkable Molly Mae! I feel she deserves to be recognized as an awesome special needs parent! -Diane

August 6th: Dean Hartop
nominated by: Sharon

Our son, Shane, was born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2. My husband gave up everything to become Shane’s main caregiver and his boccia coach, which Shane excelled at. Unfortunately on May13th, Shane passed away after a short illness at age 25 which devastated us as a family. Shane always said his dad was his hero, but truth be known, Shane was our hero. He was a true fighter till his last breath. I would like to have the opportunity to say thank you to my husband for everything he gave up to support our son’s hopes and dreams, and for always being there when Shane needed him to guide him and support throughout his short but full life.

August 7th: Olivia Howard
nominated by: Zoranda and Anonymous

Olivia has two children who suffer from a rare genetic disease. She tirelessly drives them to doctors appointments, fights for their educational rights, and searches out ways to give them as much of a normal life as possible while taking care of two non-special-needs siblings. She sacrifices things like a social life, career, and sometimes a good night’s sleep for the children! She is a true example of a mother’s love! – Zoranda

August 8th: Jennifer Bowman
nominated by: Lisa, Danielle, and Cheryl

My nephew, Dylan, is 5 years old, and is non-verbal with a rare form of epilepsy. He has had multiple seizures daily since he was a baby. Jennifer quietly, yet confidently, handles his seizures until they pass and he is up and running again. She spends countless nights by his side in the hospital for all his tests. Jenn does all this and more while working full-time and taking care of Dylan’s 8 year old brother and running a house. She’s a lioness of determination, strength & courage when it comes to my nephew. She deserves an award more than anyone I know. – Danielle

August 9th: Andrew Briseno
nominated by: Kelly

Andrew is the stepfather to my daughter. When he came into our lives, he became Leni’s biggest champion. Despite her being nonverbal, he has given her a loud voice to be heard! He has been the biggest help in her obtaining some sign language skills, and has taught her to embrace her disabilities as something to be proud of and a unique part of who she is. Andrew constantly sacrifices himself for our Leni, without complaint. He is an amazing man and I could not begin to ask for a better partner I need not only parenting, but special needs parenting!

August 10th: Lisa Huckleberry
nominated by: Kristen

Lisa Huckleberry is my good friend and an amazing mom to her daughter, Lily, who has Down Syndrome. Lisa is a single mom who also works full time to provide a good life for her daughter. Lily is smart and busy and full of sass, and Lisa has done a great job of raising her all by herself. Lisa makes sure Lily has lots of opportunities to have fun and interact with other kids by enrolling her in dance and baseball. Despite never getting a break from being a mom, Lisa has a great attitude, and a big heart. She enjoys helping other special needs families find support and resources and to learn how to navigate the system and get the services they need. I think Lisa could literally talk to anyone and make them a friend. She is a very special person and provides a lot of support for me.

August 11th: Valerie and Dirk Reum
nominated by: Teresa

Valerie and Dirk Reum are the sweetest couple with their four children, the youngest of whom was adopted from overseas and has special needs.  I became acquainted with Valerie through the Hand in Hand Ministry. She works part-time as an assistant in this ministry, and also finds time to serve as a volunteer with the respite activities for both younger children and adults with special needs each month, Night to Shine, and other activities this busy mom participates in. She is a tireless advocate for sharing the boundless love of God with these special children as well as her own. She has been a real blessing to the church ministry and to me.

August 12th: Janice Jackson
nominated by: Marlene

Janice is a stay at home home-school mom of three children. One of those three is a special-needs daughter, Sadie, with a Chromosome 6p deletion. She was diagnosed before she was born and medically was given very little time to live, if she lived at all. Today she is nearly 11 years old and although she is totally dependent, she brings so much joy to our lives. Her mama faithfully cares for her daily, doesn’t complain, and sacrifices unselfishly on a daily bases. Janice celebrates her birthday in August and I believe it would be wonderful for y’all to celebrate her and her family.

August 13th: Kate Cardamon
nominated by: Richard

She is a dedicated mom who loves her son unconditionally and faithfully, bringing him to Bible study and other fellowship opportunities at our church. She is a servant of God who is thirsty for the word and sharing it with her 30 year old son.

August 14th: Judy Loera
nominated by: Melissa, Korina, and Maritza

She is amazing mother to Tony our little angel on earth. She goes above and beyond to provide the best care and greatest love to him and meeting all his special needs. I’m just so amazed with her big love, patience and consistency when it comes to her little one. To me she truly rocks and deserves to be not only nominated but recognized for being that amazing mom. ❤️ – Maritza

August 15th: Andrea O’Neill
nominated by: Rachel and Carol

Andrea is amazing! Always smiling, always aiming high & doing her best. She is mum of a gorgeous girl with SMA. It makes me realize how much more special some parents have to be, how much special equipment is needed, and how little rest they get, yet still smile. – Rachel

August 16th: Dorrie Carter
nominated by: Judy

Dorrie has lovingly and tirelessly worked endless hours to find ways to make her son Eric’s life better for him living with NKH (non-ketotic hyperglycinemia). She has researched, taken countless classes/workshops, advocated for Eric with his education, medical care, and for awareness of disabilities for others with government at multiple levels. Her tenacity is awe inspiring!! She is a wonderful mom!!

August 17th: Steve and Shelley Gay
nominated by: Margie

Steve and Shelley work very hard to provide services for their teenage son on the autism spectrum. They make sure he is getting the support he needs while growing and learning toward being as independent as possible. The family is working with him for transition services as he gets closer to 16. As they balance their family needs, they also operate two different special need family Facebook support groups. They go out of their way to help families find resources and services. Many families have found help from Steve and Shelley to get diapers and other medical equipment they didn’t know where to turn.

August 18th: Cherri Matthews
nominated by: Tara

My sister and her husband have two children. She has a 13-year old who battles with Bipolar disorder, psychosis, ADHD, and Tourette’s syndrome. She also has a 9-year old who struggles with mitochondria disease, seizures, tics, hypertension, and possibly bipolar disorder as well. On top of the battle she has with the boys, her husband had a freak work accident earlier this year, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down, unable to drive, nor can he participate in normal family activities. I don’t know any other family like theirs. They’re motto is “NEVER GIVE UP” and the fight they have is unbelievable.

August 19th: Darcie Komorek
nominated by: Cheryl

Darcie is a single mom of a non-verbal 4yr old boy with special needs who has had 12 surgeries in his short little life. Her days are filled with taking care of her son, taking him to multiple weekly therapy sessions and many doctor visits… and she has a job too! No matter how tired she is, she always has the patience needed to be the best mom her little guy could ever have!

August 20th: Tim and Tammi VanNest and daughter Nikki
nominated by: Hope Anne

Tim and Tammi have willingly taken three children with special needs into their home, and faithfully cared for them for years in spite of a high level of special needs. Their biological daughter, Nikki, faithfully helps them in this task. They do it with humor, love, and endless patience in the face of huge challenges. I am so thankful to know them as they inspire me on a regular basis! They are the salt of the earth, always trying to do what they can for others even though their time and resources are limited due to their children’s needs. I would love to see them blessed because they truly deserve it!!

August 21st: Marybeth Czyzycki
nominated by: Maureen

She’s an AMAZING mom .. She sacrifices SO much for her children. Juggling doctor appointments, therapies, and specialists, all without questions on how or why she was given this life. She ALWAYS has a smile on her face and is ALWAYS taking care of others before her own needs… She DESERVES THIS!!!

August 22nd: Omayra Cormier
nominated by: Meghan

This woman is beautiful inside and out. She has two little ones that were diagnosed with severe autism. She is selfless. She never has the time to do anything for herself and is a stay at home mommy. Her life is therapy appointments and catering to her beautiful children. She rarely complains and deserves to be recognized for all her understanding and wisdom. God bless her!

August 23rd: Mandee and Ryan Irwin
nominated by: Christina

They are just an amazing couple that go above and beyond for others and their families despite challenges they face.

August 24th: Tara and Vince Doublehead
nominated by: Kaylee

These two both go above and beyond for Kylan! It doesn’t matter what they may be struggling through, Kylan’s wants and needs are always first. Between weekly doctor appointments, taking him to extra things to help him excel, or always getting him involved in all the different special-needs events and organizations, they make it happen! They are all three loved by the entire family, and all of us would do anything for them! They’re the epitome of awesome parents!!

August 25th: Jen Loggins
nominated by: Matt

Jen is the hardest working, and hardest loving, mom I’ve ever known! She works three jobs, takes care of all of our 2 special needs kids’ medical appointments, and does it all with grace and strength! I don’t know where our family would be without her!

August 26th: Susan Mayer
nominated by: Joan

Susan is an amazing mom. Her son Sam has multiple struggles, and Sue has searched all over the States for doctors who could help him. He’s had several surgeries on his hips,  and he also has apraxia, Down Syndrome, and sensory issues. She is patient and really funny with him. Her love for him is evident to all who know her and love Sam. I admire her in so many ways as she finds ways to help Sam and sees him as an amazing person. This award would blow her away as she just sees herself as a mom doing her best. All who know her love and admire her example of sacrificial love as she serves her sweet boy.

August 27th: Danette Davis
nominated by: Ingrid

Danette’s daughter and my daughter went through a multi-organ transplant and cancer together. Danette is a single mom who is always by Jaycee’s side and does all of Jaycee’s treatments on her own while putting her oldest daughter through college.

August 28th: Jim Littleton
nominated by: Lisa

Jim is my husband, the father of our sons who both have the life-limiting condition of Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and he is a second career United Methodist pastor. Pastors are not often appreciated and I think some extra recognition would really encourage him. After finding out about our son’s condition, Jim still decided to answer the call to ministry. Jim left behind a successful career in civil engineering to go into full time ministry. He got his divinity degree from Duke in 2014 and now serves as a pastor at Holly Springs United Methodist church. Jim has a great deal to juggle between work and home.

August 29th: Michelle Ganaway 
nominated by: Monica

Michelle does a wonderful job of raising her son alone. She has taught Jake the importance of time with Jesus, and I believe that is the most beautiful thing! I watch the cute videos of her son with autism dance and sing and it brings joy to my soul! She is a great mother and definitely deserves to be celebrated!

August 30th: Jon Thompson
nominated by: Debbie

We are raising our grandson who has PTSD from early childhood trauma. Jon spends almost every waking hour making sure that Christians needs are met. I have never seen such devotion in my life. We are alone in our struggle, not many people understand the special needs of traumatized children. He deserves a lot of love and needs encouragement from people who really understand the daily struggle of being a special needs parent.


And lastly, but certainly not least…

August 31st: Kristal Davis
nominated by: Jeannie

God brought Kristal Davis into our lives over 3 years ago. She and her husband, Dean, are parents of children with special needs. One of their beautiful sons recently went home to be with the Lord. Kristal sponsors many much needed events for our children. We first attended her ministry’s Special Ones Network (SON) egg hunt after receiving a flyer about the upcoming event in my grandson’s Cameron’s backpack. The rest, as they say, is history. Each year, many families, including ours, with children ( and adults) look forward to attending one of SON’s events. From VBS, to Christmas parties, we are so grateful for an inclusive, fun, and Christian environment. We are so blessed to have Kristal in our lives. A true servant’s heart.❤


The Manicure

Seventeen years ago, when my son Joel was fourteen and in the midst of a more-than-difficult adolescence, I led a workshop for parents and grandparents of children with disabilities at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Joel has autism.

Our time at the Ranch was difficult. Autism made traveling and sleeping in a strange bed difficult for Joel, and his behavioral challenges made it hard for him to fit in at the day camp program, set up for typical kids. Even though the Ranch provided a one-on-one buddy for Joel, his anxiety escalated and tantrums, including hair-pulling and hitting, were daily occurrences.

While at Ghost Ranch, I met Marcia, a mother whose 18-year-old son had recently moved to a group home. We spoke of many things over the course of that week, but one story she told resurfaces in my mind again and again.

Yes, she said, she grieved her son’s transition to a group home which was a ninety minute drive from where the family lived. But she’d found an antidote to the grief—intimate time spent with her son during her weekly visits, when she manicured his nails. There was something about the warm closeness of their bodies as they sat side by side, she said. There was an intimacy in holding his hand in hers, as she clipped away the overgrown nails and filed them down to smoothness, which fed her spirit. She knew in this time with her son, she told me, that everything was okay—that life was as it should be—that this moving away from home was the normal passage of life for a young adult son—that she was still needed as his mother, even if for this small task alone.

Over the course of the last seventeen years, we have gone through two major life transitions with Joel. We helped to build Safe Haven Farms, a community of choice for adults with autism located just 45 minutes from our home in southwest Ohio. While Joel’s dad and I were excited about the prospect of Joel living in a farming community, like Marcia I grieved deeply when Joel moved from our home to live there in 2010. When he moved, the woven texture of our lives was torn—a tear that needed to be sewn in new ways of being with Joel—having him home for dinners, overnights, concerts, church services.

In 2015, we moved Joel again, because, to our surprise, the farm was not a good fit for him. He needed more time in the community, and a quieter home environment with fewer housemates and staff. We bought him a house in our community. Again, we grieved broken dreams even as we celebrated his new home just a few minutes from our place.

Often, during those two transitions, I manicured Joel’s nails. I clearly remember one particular manicure before he moved to the farm. We sat close together on the couch. I held his hands in mine. I clipped away the overgrown nails, white quarter-moons that fell into my lap. I admired, out loud, the strength and resiliency of his nails—so different than mine, which break and tear and crack. He smiled as I talked and clipped and filed until his hands looked fine enough for a photo shoot. I gave him a hug before scooping the clippings into my hand and walking into the kitchen to throw them into the wastebasket.

I practiced saying goodbye as I threw these clippings away—those parts of Joel that were outgrown and no longer needed—those clippings that were now a part of his past. I practiced saying goodbye as I approached the day when my husband and I gently pushed Joel over the side of the nest, whispering, “Fly, Joel! Fly!” And as I practiced saying goodbye, I reminded myself that new life would emerge—for Joel, for his father and me, for our family as a whole—new life as strong and resilient as the new nails that were even then beginning to emerge on Joel’s beautiful hands.

Kathleen Deyer Bolduc’s newest book, The Spiritual Art of Raising Children with Disabilities, was published by Judson Press in 2014. She is also the author of Autism & Alleluias (Judson Press, 2010); His Name Is Joel: Searching for God in a Son’s Disability, and A Place Called Acceptance: Ministry with Families of Children with Disabilities (Bridge Resources, 1999 and 2001). Her books have won awards from Foreword Press, Illumination Book Awards, and Eric Hoffer Awards. You can find her books and blog at Kathy is happy to report that Joel absolutely loves living in his new home, and is making friendships in his new community through the Best Buddies Friends Choir, part of the Best Buddies program at Miami University.