Alive East Bay Magazine

Caring Awareness

I write monthly articles for Alive East Bay Magazine. My goal is to provide positive information, resources and hope for all communities. I hope you enjoy March’s edition. 💚

The month of March always has me in deep reflection. As an awareness month to educate the public about Cerebral Palsy and all that this medical diagnosis signifies, I think about all that my 11-year-old daughter has survived. I think about what emotional turmoil my family and I have survived and about the many families with a special needs diagnosis.

While caring and awareness may be brief for some, the many “hats” that I must wear are the forever symbols of the delicate care I must incorporate, as life is now filled with priorities much different than those of mainstream society. It is a rocky path strewn with emotional, physical, financial, and medical challenges, but these bumps in the road can be faced with help from caring organizations like CARE Parent Network.

Founded over 30 years ago after the implementation of The Lanterman Act (laws to protect and grant equal rights for those with disabilities), CARE Parent Network is a family resource center that provides support for the disabled and the loved ones that care for them.

When my daughter was first diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, a medical condition due to injury of the Cerebral Cortex (the part of the brain that controls muscle movement and function), I thought her world had been shattered into pieces, resulting in many future hardships. Families feel lost after being told by a medical professional that their child has a condition that will limit their physical or developmental ability. They can feel alone with their fears as they navigate medical terminologies, paperwork, and life-long commitments to readjusting their daily schedules—let alone the educational options and legal rights of which one must be knowledgeable in order to wear a respectful but firm hat of advocacy. While a parent cares for the child, CARE Parent Network takes care of the family unit, providing a network of supportive and informative options.

Whether through support groups or one-on-one support, CARE Parent Network’s  staff are not only knowledgeable but empathetic, as they are, themselves, special needs parents, like program director Hannah Michaelsen. With a degree in public administration and the parent of a son was with Autism, Hannah was a volunteer for CARE for 14 years before becoming its program director. The most gratifying part of her job, she states, “is to share in a chapter where others are more empowered and confident because of CARE’s existence; to equip the parents to advocate and navigate not only the system, but their daily lives.” Through CARE, doors are opened to compassionate directions of understanding. They help clients navigate the intricate paperwork of IEPs (educational planning and goals) and legal rights, as well as addressing personal concerns and frustrations.  

May the months that introduce awareness also introduce connections that inspire compassion and a purpose to create a sustainable and capable community; one where a disability turns into visibility beyond the fog that can overwhelm us.

The ribbon we wear this month is about being aware that there are people who do care. It is a ribbon worn not just once a year but every day. May CARE Parent Network continue to weave together all ribbons and teach families to wear them with not just pride but unwavering hope.  

For more information, please visit careparentnetwork.org or visit their Facebook group page: Care Parent Network

Alive East Bay Magazine

What Have You Got To Lose?

Alive_ Mary Smith Toys For Tots Pic

I write monthly articles for Alive East Bay Magazine. My goal is to provide positive information, resources and hope for special needs awareness and inclusionI hope you enjoy December’s edition. ❤

Just as holidays can be misrepresented as a time to buy expensive gifts out of obligation, the season can also be a time where we get to see the best in people through their actions. Whether it is individuals, businesses, or organizations, a sense of hope and inclusion is provided to others through compassionate, kind effort.  It is a way to let others know, whether we know them or not, that they are not forgotten.

The collaboration of Bay Alarm Company and Toys for Tots is a perfect example of such compassion.

“To whom much is given, much is expected,” is a quote that says to help when you have the resources to do so, especially if you have an overflow of those resources. Mary Smith is one person who provides new meaning to this quote, who gives without expecting anything in return.  It is the pure joy of giving to others just to see the smiles on children’s faces and the display of relief and gratitude from the families. Remembering the experiences in her life when there were struggles, Mary Smith made it a part of her personal day to day life to help others through volunteering or giving gifts to those in need.

In 1986, she extended her fundraising activities to Toys for Tots and eventually through her employer, Bay Alarm.  Bay Alarm began generously matching the funds raised at 100%, doubling the financial ability to provide gifts for families that struggle all year long to make ends meet, let alone obtain extra provisions during a holiday.  It was in 2016 that Mary’s fundraising at work reached the highest earnings of $35,000.00 with all of it used to purchase gifts and care packages for the Toys for Tots families. Whether it was families in foster care, those struggling with addiction, or individuals with medical challenges, it was through her 30+ years of devotion to giving to others that still reminds the world that it takes a village.

In 2019, Mary Smith retired from Bay Alarm. At her retirement celebration she was surprised with an honorary gift—a dedication award from Bay Alarm that included the new title of the fundraising efforts to be named “Mary Smith Toys for Tots.”  Just as their logo says, “What Have You Got to Lose?”, her employer showed its gratitude because when a village practices unconditional giving, that village has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Even though people may retire from jobs, people never retire from having a heart to compassionately give others a moment of joy just when they need it the most.  As the torch is passed for other kind-hearted Bay Alarm employees to maintain the momentum of giving, may the same selfless energy of these individuals carry on infinitely.

That’s what the season is meant to represent—when we give it our all with a focus to benefit others, we never lose.  We gain memories and set the paths that last for generations.  Bay Alarm, Toys for Tots, and Mary Smith are reminders of what really counts in life; not the measurable and tangible, but the immeasurable and intangible.  May we all stay on a path to deliver hope from the heart, not just during the holidays, but every day.

For more information on how you can give to those in need, please visit:

http://www.toysfortots.org

For more information about Bay Alarm’s community support, please visit:

 

https://aliveeastbay.com/category/wellness/