Mominee All-Stars



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    Moms who run their own charities Every parent’s greatest fear? Watching their child suffer through illness, or worse, pass away. Yet when that exact fear became a reality, each of these moms turned hardship into hope for others by founding charities in honor of their children. We are awed, inspired, and heartened by their incredible works.

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    1: Jen Arnold

    Moms who run their own charities: Jen ArnoldJen lost her son, Tucker, to acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In his worst days, when he was living in the hospital, Tucker became friends with kids just like him — whose entire worlds changed forever when they were transplanted from playgrounds to hospital beds. Still, Tucker found a way to have a little fun, and his dying wish was that other kids in his position could have some fun, too. Jen founded Tucker's Toybox, a charity in Portland, OR that donates toys to children fighting cancer, in the spirit of her son’s wish.

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    2: Ashley Zoltowski

    Moms who run their own charities: Ashley Zoltowski It’s hard to grasp the lifelong effects of diabetes when you’re just a few years old. When her son, Brennan, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, Ashley took on the role of unofficial nurse, teaching him how to live with the disease. But she also chose to be an unofficial doctor, researcher, and benefactor. Out of this dedication, Team Brennan's Bacta, a charity walking/running group that aims to find a cure for diabetes, was formed. The team has currently raised over $12,000 through charity runs alone.

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    3: Gen Chamblee

    Moms who run their own charities: Gen Chamblee When Gen lost her daughter, Sierra, to stage IV Neuroblastoma, she did something amazing: she started the The Sierra Rayn Foundation, choosing to reach out to others in her moments of grief. The foundation helps fund Neuroblastoma research, creates support groups for families, and helps eradicate aggressive childhood cancers.

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    4: Francie Paul

    Moms who run their own charities: Francie PaulFrancie's son, Joshua Bennett Paul, was born with severe complex congenital heart disease. Hurt and confused, Francie and her husband found themselves without any resources to help them through the devastating news, so they decided to create their own. They founded the Saving tiny Hearts Society with the primary goal of raising seed money for grassroots research of congenital heart defects. The research has not only improved lives but has also served as a bridge to larger scale congenital heart disease research. To date, the StHS has raised over $800,000 and funded 5 research projects.

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    5: Candi

    Moms who run their own charities: Candi After her first ultrasound revealed a mass on her unborn baby girl’s neck, Candi knew her daughter, Kat, would not live long once born. Choosing not to abort, Candi held Kat for just 15 minutes before her baby passed away. Candi started Babies with Wings as a resource to other families who lose their children much too soon. Babies with Wings provides financial assistance, offers community, makes sure each child has a headstone, and memorializes the children with candle lighting ceremonies. Candi writes on her website, “Yes, it was a short life, but what a difference it made to us.”

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    6: Heather Montoya

    Moms who run their own charities: Heather Montoya When Heather’s daughter, Olivia, developed severe infantile scoliosis, Heather was told there was no real treatment available for her baby girl. Determined to improve Olivia’s life, Heather singlehandedly brought a new treatment for severe infantile scoliosis from the United Kingdom to the United States. She then founded the Infantile Scoliosis Outreach Program. Even though it was too late to save Olivia from halo traction and spinal surgeries, Heather works so that other children with scoliosis will not need these painful procedures.

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    7: Dianne Lynch

    Moms who run their own charities: Dianne Lynch While watching her son, Jack, battle cancer, Dianne founded the Jack Lynch Fund to raise awareness of how this disease affects children. Just months after beautiful Jack’s passing, Dianne found a lump in her chest and was diagnosed with breast cancer. Inspired by the life of her son, Dianne fought hard and is now cancer-free. She has since founded Golf Fights Cancer, a non-profit organization that utilizes one of her passions to give back to others battling the disease themselves.

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    8: Rebekka Hauskins

    Moms who run their own charities: Rebekka Hauskins After Rebekka’s son, Hayden, was delivered stillborn, she and her husband were determined to help families in the same situation by lessening the weight of the financial burden caused by a stillborn birth. They founded Hayden’s Helping Hands, a non-profit foundation that financially assists parents with their hospital delivery expenses. They have paid the delivery bills for three families so far this year, allowing the families more time to focus on working through their grief and returning to happier lives.

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    9: Jeanette Zitkevitz Paredes

    Moms who run their own charities: Jeanette Zitkevitz ParedesJeanette’s gorgeous baby boy, Mateo, was born with only half a heart and multiple congenital heart defects. Jeanette knew during pregnancy that her son would need intensive care immediately after birth. Instead of viewing his life as a tragedy, she saw every moment he was alive as a miracle, and thanks to her and her husband’s love and support, Mateo lived a full nine months. Jeanette founded Miracle for Mateo in her son’s honor and uses the inspirational story of his life to raise funds for other families facing similar hardships.

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    10: Sharon Manning

    Moms who run their own charities: Sharon ManningSharon’s son, DJ, was born in perfect health — but after learning to sit up, crawl, and walk, he began to regress. He was eventually diagnosed Tay-Sachs, a disease that Sharon and her husband had never heard of but soon knew all too well. Wanting to help other parents unfamiliar with Tay-Sachs, they created DJ’s Foundation, with their main goals being education and awareness. After DJ’s passing, DJ’s Foundation joined efforts with the National Tay-Sachs Foundation with the goal of raising funds for a cure.

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    11: Sarah Erwin

    Moms who run their own charities: Sarah Erwin Even though he was stillborn, Sarah wanted her son, Holden’s, life to impact the world. She and her husband founded Holden Uganda with the initial goal of building nine wells in Uganda for the nine months Holden lived in utero. Each well is dedicated to the memory of a stillborn child, but also passes on new life as it provides between 500 and 2,000 people in Uganda with clean drinking water. Holden Uganda reached its goal of 9 wells and continues to build, creating a beautiful and meaningful legacy.

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    12: Shannon Becker

    Moms who run their own charities: Shannon Becker Only a year ago, Shannon received the news that her baby, Reese, passed away suddenly and inexplicably at daycare from SIDS, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Shannon has organized a run on behalf of First Candle to benefit SIDS research in honor of Reese, in hopes that parents will someday have answers to what went wrong with their children. On September 25th, friends and family ran in memory of what would have been Reese’s first birthday.

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    13: Laurie Morton

    Moms who run their own charities: Laurie MortonLaurie’s son, Jack, was diagnosed with stage 4 Neuroblastoma cancer before he was even three years old. He received treatment at the Phoenix Children's Hospital, where he made many friends who were also batting the illness. The worst part about the experience for Jack was not his own treatment but watching his new friends pass away. Now that Jack is cancer-free, his family is dedicated to raising awareness and funding for other families fighting Neuroblastoma through their charity, the Jack Morton Foundation.

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    14: Heather Spohr

    Moms who run their own charities: Heather SpohrHeather’s beautiful baby girl, Maddie, was born weeks early, weighing only three pounds and spent the first 68 days of her life in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). These special facilities are designed for premature infants and work to keep them safe from germs their underdeveloped bodies cannot yet handle. Maddie was eventually released and lived a year and a half as a healthy girl, until she passed suddenly from an infection. Heather recognizes that if it weren’t for the NICU, Maddie might not have seen her happy year and a half of life. Her non-profit organization, Friends of Maddie, works to financially and emotionally support families with children in the NICU.

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    15: Stephanie Cole

    Moms who run their own charities: Stephanie Cole When Stephanie was a week past her due date, she tried not to worry, but in her body she felt something might be wrong. When the doctor confirmed that her baby girl Madeline had died, Stephanie needed a way to turn her grief into something positive. She started the Sweet Pea Project as a way to cope with her sadness through art and community, and now uses the project to share that same sense of community with others. Sweet Pea Project blankets are now donated to hospitals nationwide to comfort other parents of stillborn and deceased infants.

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