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.❤


Meet Our Special-Needs Parent of the Day (2016 winner list!)

Throughout the month of July, friends and family members were invited to nominate a special-needs parents of the day to receive a free gift from our sponsors! Each day in August we’ll announce a new winner. At the end of August, we’ll match up the winners with gifts we think they will love.
parent of the day
August 1st
Winner: Terri Kussero Nominated by: Jackie Sherrill
Why: “Terri is a wonderful Mother to her special needs Daughter. She goes above and beyond to try to get the services needed. She knows that the road is full of bumps, but she does not complain about health issues that can get in the way. She finds ways to balance her life and family. Although I do not get to see or visit her, I always know she is a shoulder to cry on and understands the life we have both have been blessed with. She is an inspiration to people who have no idea what life is like with special needs children.”

August 2nd
Winner: Carrie Jones Nominated by: Nicole Linn
Why: “Hello! I would love to nominate Carrie Jones. She, along with her husband Brandon, have a darling 4 year old girl named Indie Rose. Indie was born with Angelman’s syndrome. AS is a neurological disorder which causes severe developmental and intellectual disabilities, seizures, and sleep disturbances. Indie Rose sleeps only an hour or two on average a night. In addition to the Angelman’s syndrome, Indie also cannot eat, she must be fed through a tube. Indie also has 17 dead spots in her brain. She just had her second brain surgery to drain the fluid. Carrie and Brandon deal with so much and yet they still have such love and patience with their kids and each other. Even through all of the hospital visits and brain surgeries, they have hope and humor. Carrie doesn’t have a lot and I know this recognization and encouragement would mean so much to her.”

August 3rd
Winner: Monica Smith Nominated by: Seth Smith
Why: “I have watched my wife Monica set up our son with autism for greatness! She is always working with him and helping him to enter our world and if there is a day he has trouble doing that I will find her in his room under the covers with him watching videos or playing Minecraft as she enters his world! She is always offering a hand to other special needs moms and her phone can ring at any time with questions that if she doesn’t know the answer to she will walk beside the mom till the answer is there and a solution has been found!
One day per week she has started a play date with other autism families. They come together and do art projects, swim, go bowling! The joy the children (and other moms and siblings) enjoy is so worth it to her! I have come home from work to so many wonderful things the children have created! I have heard of wonderful “adult” conversations that were had while the children swam or painted.
Monica reminds me of an agent of change.. She wants to make the world a more accepting place for people with special needs. She is our son’s super hero (and mine to) …(I know I’ve seen a cape somewhere)”

August 4th
Winner: Stacy Taylor Nominated by: Danielle Young
Why: “Stacy is a great person. Once she became a Mom, she became AWESOME! She has four lovely children, two are special needs. Marshall and Sam are two strong, determined, stubborn and funny kids! Marshall may have speech and hearing issues, but boy does he LOVE to talk. Sam has a smile that will melt your heart. So be careful. The Taylors, from the outside looking in, seem to balance life, jobs, household chores and parenting, with a sense of calm and ease. I know this is farthest from their reality. They face challenges daily, albeit monetary, juggling medical appointments and therapies, and making accommodations in an “unhandicap society.” I can’t imagine the money, effort, stress of trying to parent with these extra hurdles in being a parent. I do know that Marshall and Sam, couldn’t ask for a better Mother. Stacy’s inner strength is unending. On the outside we see a beautiful, confident and supportive Mom. On the inside, I’m sure she is tired and stressed. I’m sure she is just trying to get through life one day at a time. Yet, she is always looking one step ahead. She will do anything, travel anywhere to make life easier or more comfortable for Marshall and Sam. Stacy’s family story deserves to be shared. Her children are AMAZING!!!”

August 5th
Winner: Jamie Ulsher Nominated by: Cindy Wheeler
Why: “Jamie is a beautiful person inside and out, and just happens to be my daughter. I nominate her because she is an amazingly strong, loving mother of three beautiful children with the youngest having multiple handicaps( lissencephaly, CVI, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, stroke surviving twin). She’s been dealing with so much stress the past two years, the birth of Zach, our super hero, the lose of his brother and now going through a nasty divorce. Her children mean the world to her, but, between Zach’s many Dr.’s appointments, therapy secessions, and now marriage issues she needs to know that there are people out there that care, that will be there when she needs a helping hand, that have “been there, done that” and know what she’s going through.
Thank you for considering my daughter for this nomination.”

August 6th
Winner: Shamirah Bandila Luna Nominated by: Sherrie Sinsuat
Why: “I nominate my sister Shamirah Bandila Luna as special needs parents of the day, or of the month or of the year or of the life time. My eldest sister had six children (3 in college, 1 in senior high, one in elementary, and Datu Tam as the second son aged 21 as cerebral palsy special child of her). Datu Tam was a healthy baby boy when he was born but he was diagnosed cerebral palsy at nine months. He had therapy when he was 1 year old onwards even until he was 16 years old. Through the years I’ve seen her mother and father beside him, with their pure love, support and care of a parents could have to a child. They never left Datu Tam on his darkest days. Now, Datu Tam was a happy and contented man on his wheel chair. He grew up with faith and strength even knowing he couldn’t walk ever. Datu Tam’s smile could really says how happy he was with his faith in God and his family will always be beside him, to support and love him until the end.”

August 7th
Winner: Heidi Rayl Nominated by: Jenny Rand
Why: “Heidi is the definition of a mother. She has 2 children, one typical (a daughter), and one with special needs (a son). She devotes all of her time to her children. She juggles attending her daughter’s sporting events and dance competitions and commuting her son back and forth to doctor and therapy appointments. Heidi is one the most understanding, nonjudgmental, kind, caring, and loving people I’ve ever had the honor of knowing. Her devotion to her children is something to be respected.”

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August 8th
Winner: Chaney Roko Nominated by: Nancy Roko 
Why: “I am nominating my daughter (Chaney Roko). Chaney, who became a widow at the age of 30, has two adopted special needs children.
My youngest daughter, Jasmine, was born in 1984 at 24 weeks gestation. She was born with microcephaly, had many “preemie” complications, and died at the age of 16. Chaney was 8 years old when Jasmine joined our family. She became one of Jasmine’s staunchest supporters while growing up. Chaney decided early on to adopt a special needs child. Three years after the death of her husband Chaney did adopt – first Mary and a few years later, Keira. Both girls were born with Arthrogryposis Multiples Congenita (multiple joint contractures and muscle weakness, also known as AMC) and have both trachs and g-tubes. Keira also had birth complication which caused cerebral palsy. Their lives are very busy with medical appointments, therapies, school (for Keira) and homeschool (for Mary), summer camp and adaptive sports – tucking in trips to Shriner’s in Philadelphia – 6 hours away from them. The Philly Shriner’s is where Dr. Van Bosse, who is a specialist in the rare disorder of AMC, can be seen.
I live 1500 miles from Chaney and the girls but manage to see them at least once a year (this year I will be with them when Mary has both of her legs amputated).
I am so proud of Chaney for “paying it forward” by adopting these girls! I love them all dearly!”

August 9th
Winner: Tricia Roth Nominated by: Yvette Patch
Why: “Tricia is the mother to Bronson. Bronson is a young boy that suffered a severe, traumatic brain injury at birth. Bronson has cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder, and autonomic dysfunction due to the brain injury. He has had many procedures that include a feeding tube, a supra pubic catheter, an appendicostomy, a baclofen pump and several more. Bronson is non verbal but he the most amazing young boy.
Tricia is also leader to a lot of special needs mothers. She has touched many hearts as well and gives every bit of her attention to a hurting mom in need. In 2010, she began a bible study for some amazing mothers that have hurting hearts. She became their rock and mentor as she would listen to each voice no matter how long it took. She also finds the time to speak publicly, founded a nonprofit called Brave Like Bronson, visits schools with a puppet team to teach inclusion to typical children and runs with Bronson in 5K while he is in his Hoyt running chair. She is a burst of energy for the special needs community and has a ton of people the look up to her. Me being one. She deserves the moon! I am sure if you reached out to many of the women that she mentors, you would get the same reaction from them about Tricia.
I nominate Tricia Roth for this Special Needs Parent award because not only does she carry the weight of excellent care to Bronson, she has a huge heart of other special needs children and their incredible parents.”

August 10th
Winner: Shelly Roberts Nominated by: Amy Dunaway
Why: “After raising her biological family, Shelly began her journey into the foster to adopt program. She has adopted three beautiful children, – one typically developing, one with congenital heart disease, and one with severe cerebral palsy. She recently accepted another foster placement (hoping to again adopt) a child with anencephaly. The two youngest are wheelchair bound, nonverbal and require complete care.

Shelly has a heart for children with special needs and believes every child should be cherished for who they are as a child of God.”

August 11th
Winner: Lisa Ordes Nominated by: Jennifer Guillory
Why: “She has become my sister and one of my strengths. Her daughter Kayla has AT and uses a wheelchair. This past year has been extremely rough when Lisa received the diagnosis that she has breast cancer. Still caring for her daughter she now had to fight for herself and still be the mom to her two daughters and a wife. She had many ups and downs but her strength remained strong. Now she is in remission however is now fighting shingles. I am truly blessed to have her in my life.”

August 12th
Winner: Kim Harris Nominated by: Maria Varela
Why: “Kim is a wonderful mother, dedicated completely to her 6-year-old son Caleb. He was born with a congenital, very rare heart disease. After being so scared for years and witnessing her child’s health deteriorate, he received a new heart! The last weeks have being an emotional rollercoaster for Caleb and his mom. She has been so emotionally drained. She is also so strong and an inspiration for me, also a special needs parent. She deserves a recognition!”

August 13th
Winner: Renee Schlenner Nominated by: Brooke Copher
Why: “Renee is a wonderful mother of two children with special needs. She always has a smile on her face and is looking for ways to help others. She was a great asset to me when I moved to Delaware. Renee is an advocate for her children and for inclusion. Her spirit is contagious and brings joy to our community. I am very proud to call her a friend and be on the journey of raising special needs children together.”

August 14th
Winner: Lei Perozich Nominated by: Lisa Toma
Why: “Lei and I went to college together and she was a “big sister” to me. Never in a million years did I think that we would be reunited again as “sisters” but here we are, both moms to boys with autism. I am nominating Lei because she is amazing parent to her special needs son Anthony and her two other children. She fights for Anthony as she tries to get him the medical help he needs with his epilepsy in addition to also fighting the school to help her son receive an education. She deserves some extra attention and encouragement.”

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August 15th
Winner: Salvador & Deborah Arrona Nominated by: Cassandra Jenkins
Why: “My cousins, Salvador and Deborah, are parents to Aria. She was born premature and lives with multiple medical diagnoses as a result, such as Cerebral Palsy and Dysphagia, a feeding tube, suffers seizures, and multiple others. Yet Salvador and Deborah NEVER complain, as tired and scared as they may be–running Aria to doctors appointments or taking Aria to the ER in emergencies they’re always optimistic about God’s plan for them and for Aria’s well being. I want to nominate them, not because they ask for recognition, but because as we become parents we take on the responsibility of raising these little people and teaching them greatness. My cousins have gone above and beyond, they continue to do so. Salvador works hard to support his family, while Deborah quit her job to stay home and ensure someone is available for Aria’s care at all times. These two truly are all stars.”

August 16th
Winner: Christie Mellinger Nominated by: Marilou Senseman
Why: “I’d like to nominate Christie Mellinger. Christie is the mom to a beautiful daughter, Danielle, who has Angelman Syndrome. Christie lost her husband this past year, and it’s been very hard on Christie, Danielle, and her son, David. She is a beautiful woman who can use all the smiles we can bless her with.”

August 17th
Winner: Michelle Keys Nominated by: Deb Younkins
Why: “Michelle has 3 children, 2 with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita. Her son is usually in a body cast with a trach and needs much care. He must take regular trips to doctors and she has 2 other young children which need care. Michelle exemplifies God’s love to everyone.”

August 18th
Winner: Geraldine Renton Nominated by: Caroline McCrank
Why: “I want to nominate Geraldine Renton because she is one amazing lady. She has a beautiful 14 year old son who has Hunter Syndrome type II. He is the eldest of 3 boys. Every day & night she tirelessly looks after him with her heart breaking knowing one day she will lose him to this life limiting disease. She writes on her blog about their journey to ease her pain & help her cope along the way. She gives out love, smiles, and welcomes to everyone she knows, especially to other special-needs parents and children.”

August 19th
Winner: Joanna Rosario Nominated by: Lisa
Why: “Joanna is mom of 3 kids, 2 with special needs. Her patience, dedication, and determination are qualities that every parent should possess. Even when it may seem that she’s overwhelmed she just keeps on going! She truly deserves to be acknowledged!”

August 20th
Winner: Jodi and Stephen Shenal Nominated by: Debra Temple
Why: “Jodi & Stephen have two children with special needs. Their son has autism and daughter has Q1 deletion. This couple started Race The Helix, which is going in its 5th year later this year. Jodi also writes a special needs parents blog for Firefly. They are amazing parents and are such a wonderful example of special needs parents.”

August 21st
Winner: Doug Thorstenson Nominated by: Kathleen Thorstenson
Why: “I would like to nominate my husband, Doug, because he is a one in a million dad when it comes to our kids. We just retired from doing Foster Care for special needs and medically fragile children after 25+ years. We have had over 70 children through our home and have adopted the last 4. We have had them pretty much since birth. They range in age from 6 to 15 and are each unique in their own way. But one of our daughters is severely impaired both mentally and physically. She also has a trach and a feeding tube along with several other issues.She has had 6 surgeries on her back and is getting ready to under go # 7 to lengthen growth rods for her scoliosis. Doug and our daughter have a very special bond, and he is the one that sits by her bed with each hospital admission or Doctors appointment. He retired from his job with our local school district after 30 years.”

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August 22nd
Winner: Cassi Baden Nominated by: Lorna Bradley
Why: “Cassi tirelessly cares for a three-year-old with fragile health and a terminal diagnosis. She has faced so many adversities with grace and faith. She keeps her focus on God in the midst of the hardest of times, inspiring others with her spirit and energy.”

August 23rd
Winner: Shannon Tucker Nominated by: Michele Scott
Why: “Shannon has 3 children with special needs with a mix of autistic, medical, and emotional issues. When she is not working with her children, their therapists or schools, she shares her special ed teacher/parenting knowledge in online groups to help other parents advocate for their children. That’s how I met Shannon. She helped me with concerns at the cyberschool our children attended. And even though her children are back in their local schools, she continues as the main Admin for the special ed parents online group we created. Other than sharing an occasional lunch out with me, she seldom does anything for herself. I would love to see Shannon honored and gifted for all of the ways she gives to others.”

August 24th
Winner: Rosa Falcon Nominated by: Carissa Byram
Why: “My friend Rosa deserves this because of her undying attention she gives towards her son, Angelo, who has Down Syndrome. She never stops teaching him and believing in him while also fighting her own disease lupus. She is such a strong amazing mother and deserves every bit of happiness in this world.”

August 25th
Winner: Cyndi Lopez Nominated by: Ian V Hamrick
Why: “I cannot say enough wonderful things about Cyndi, as mother and as a person. She is one of the strongest women I have ever met in my life. She works tirelessly day in and day out to make sure her son, Angel, who is wheelchair bound due to Spina Bifida, get any and everything he needs. From Physical therapy, home education, physical fitness, countless medical appointments, and surgeries, she is there making sure he is taken care of in any and every way possible. She has also still managed to find time to volunteer with Spina Bifida Texas, a nonprofit dedicated to education the public about this condition. When she not taking care of her son or those close to her, she is volunteering in anyway she can to help others in any capacity that she can.
What has impressed me the most in the years that I have known her is her resolve and her tireless energy to care not only for her son but those people that are close and not so close to her. She is champion not only for her son but also for other people who may not have a voice or be represented. She does all these things and more while dealing with her own personal health problems. I cannot think anyone who is more deserving to be recognized for doing what they do every moment of everyday.”

August 26th
Winner: Amanda McCarter Nominated by: Ashley Vanmeter
Why: “Amanda delivered her son by emergency c-section at only 21 weeks pregnancy and is now raising a true miracle baby. Her son just had his 2nd Birthday and is always accomplishing new milestones thanks all to Amanda. I don’t know how she does it. He has many many health issues including cerebral palsy, epilepsy, vision issues, mobility issues, and still has a feeding tube in place but that doesn’t stop Amanda from being the most inspiring and caring mother. So many sleepless nights and not enough help. Unfortunately due to her husband’s job, they had to move away from family. We all pitch in and help as much as we can but it’s still so hard for Amanda not getting much help and having friends and family 6 hours away. I truly don’t know how she does it by herself! Somehow everyday Amanda wakes up and finds the fight in her soul to have hope for better days.”

August 27th
Winner: Amy Miller Nominated by: Jennifer Lindemann
Why: “Amy is an exceptional mother. She not only parents all six of her kids, homeschools them all, keeps them all involved in sports, music lessons and community service, but she also has a daughter with Spina Bifida. Three years ago, pregnant with her 5th child, she came to the Children’s Hospital and sat with me when my infant son was diagnosed with a critical congenital heart defect. She brought me an electric blanket so I wouldn’t get cold in the hospital. She brought me organic snacks and bottles of water. Most importantly, she held my hand and cried with me. Then she took my 2.5 year old, healthy son, home with her so he could have fun while we were stuck at the hospital. She just added him right into her crazy bunch and took such amazing care of him. She is intimately familiar with the hospital as her daughter, Kehlana, has had close to forty surgeries there. Every day she reminds me to live for the now and for the moments that I am getting, because none of us are promised tomorrow, but if we dwell on that we lose out on the moments we do get.

She’s an inspiration to me as a wife, mother, and friend. She does everything for other people without hesitation, and I never could have survived my introduction to special needs parenting without her.”

August 28th
Winner: Korie Heckinger Nominated by: Susan Peterson
Why: “Korie has a son named Zach who is 8 and was born with Spina Bifida, hydrosephilis and Arnold Ciari disease. It is a 24 hour job but Korie is doing a fantastic job of making life as normal for Zach as possible. Korie wants Zach to know he can do anything if he puts his mind to it. She seeks out different experiences for Zach to do such as horse back riding, surfing, skiing, baseball, hunting, fishing, and track. She also has a daughter Zoey who is 11 and she runs these kids to their different events most every night of the week. She knows that someday she won’t be there for Zach and wants him to be self-sufficient. Korie also has a full time job. Her and her husband Jamie work opposite shifts so that there is always someone there for Zach. This leaves little time for them as a couple. And Korie would be the first person to help anyone in need. She is a very giving person and asks for nothing in return.”

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August 29th
Winner: Emily Carter Nominated by: Kristin Schell
Why: “Emily is my younger sister. She’s an amazing mother to Jack, 13, and Charlie, 5. If you want to label Charlie, he has autism. But our family just knows and loves him as CFC — as we call him. Emily and her husband Fran are remarkable parents. But, it’s hard. Having a child with Autism means there’s never any down-time. And, when they dare to look into the future, there’s really no end in sight for the care CFC will need. Most days, you’d never know about the sleepless nights, the endless worry, or fear they face as parents. Emily and Fran are too busy taking CFC to swim lessons, helping Jack and the neighbor friends find Pokemon Go, or enjoying rare, but healthy family outings. I would love for Emily & Fran to feel the LOVE — knowing there’s a community of folks who understand is so important. Thank you for hosting this and reaching out to love special-needs parents!”

August 30th
Winner: Rose Gilleland Nominated by: Lacy Gilleland
Why: “My mom is the parent of a 30-year-old with special needs. She also works with children with special needs everyday as a special needs preschool teacher. Her strength is amazing and she is an amazing parent and teacher!”

August 31st
Winner: Kati Zick Nominated by: Kathy Schwabe
Why: “I want nominate my niece, Kati Zick. She is an amazing parent to her 2 boys and especially to her daughter, Lauren. Lauren was born with Cerebral Palsy. Lauren has 12 doctors and has endured many operations. At one time Kati and her husband, David, taught a Bible study for Special Needs parents at their church. Since birth Lauren has had 3 therapists: occupational, physical, and swallowing. She uses her walker and wheel chair and she can walk independently some. For the last 3 years she has had intestinal problems resulting in her colon being taken out and an ileostomy. One year she was in and out of the hospital over 100 days the next year 72 consecutive days. Through it all Kati is the most positive person I’ve ever met in my life. She relies on God to give her strength and carry her through the tough days. Kati trained as a Special Education teacher which serves her well now. Kati is always prepared with therapies and protecting Lauren from allergens. I can’t think of anyone who deserves to be treated “special” for the loving ways she cares for her whole family.”