I only have one month left with my United Way Public Impact Speaker contract. I can't say enough how much I have loved working with this fantastic organization. It has been the most rewarding job I have ever had, aside from being a mom. We fund 28 Community Partners, 24 programs, and did you know, one out of every three people will required a service funded by the United way in the Fraser Valley last year! That adds up to over 76,000 people. One of the reasons I was so excited to take this position was because I knew how rewarding it would be to support an organization whose support tremensously helped out my children. We just never know when crisis can touch our own life.....and there was no way I could have seen what was coming my way. Up until 1998, my life was very easy and very blessed. I had a wonderful upbringing with loving parents, married my kind and handsome husband… and at the time we were living in our lovely new home, raising our beautiful three year old daughter Jesse, and excited about the arrival of our second baby. Then, in a blink of an eye, everything changed. At birth, my son Avery was diagnosed with a critical heart defect requiring multiple heart surgeries and spending many months in ICU. There were many days we wern't sure if he was going to make it through. During Avery’s battle to live, my dad, and mentot, suddenly died of a heart attack, and shortly thereafter my daughter, Jesse, was diagnosed with Autism. I felt like a tornado had lifted me up and landed me on another Planet! Never did I ever think about having to face such fears….but sometimes we just don’t have a choice. Thankfully, after many challenging months, Avery did survive. Despite all the other devastation, we were most grateful Avery lived. However, when reality set in, we realized we needed help. We weren’t near equipped to deal with the delays and support for two children with challenging needs. However, with some sourcing we were able to find services from organizations who gave Avery and Jesse the highest standards of therapies and education to help them thrive to the best of their ability. Jesse is 21 and attending a day program where she participates in activities and volunteers for many community services. Her favorite part of the week is delivering Meals on wheels to the seniors. Avery graduated with Honors this year, and won the Nelson Mandela Hardest Working Student Award, and is attending the University of the Fraser Valley’s Bachelor of arts program. Giving back to my community and United Way has been the best experience. I encourage everyone I know to give a little time, money or effort into giving back...the feeling it brings will spread much joy on your path.