A Homecoming that will forever be remembered!

This past weekend a family who attends all of Leah’s Dream Events was able to have such a positive experience at Marysville Getchell High School. Jim Strickland described this experience at its best:

One of our jobs as teachers and parents is to help our young people connect with their passions and follow them where they lead.

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Jorge Farias is a student in the MG Transition Program, and his passion is football! When the McKinney family donated a certificate for Jorge to be Honorary Captain for a game, he could talk about nothing else for weeks.

To make it even more special, Charger Coach Davis Lura offered to bring Jorge on board for the MG Homecoming Game! When Jorge entered the stadium, he received a standing ovation from his peers and a huge group hug from the Charger Cheerleaders. The smile on his face said it all.

Thanks to all in the MG family who made it possible for Jorge to have this amazing experience -- and especially to Charger player Cyrus Felix-Lopez for taking Jorge under his wing on the sidelines. You rock!

Jim Strickland

MG Transition Teacher

While this experience was was something spectacular for Jorge but also for his family!

This is from Sonia Villalobos, Jorge‘s mom:

First of all I want to thank everyone for the opportunity that was granted to Jorge, to be out on the field with the team. Jorge is a big football fan, especially for the Seahawks team. When the Seahawks play, Jorge has a Seahawks helmet that he wears and gets excited as if he were out on the field and always says he wants to play with them. Being out on the field with the Chargers football team was a dream come true to Jorge and his family. Seeing Jorge’s face expression was a lifetime memory to have and we are very grateful with all who made this dream of his come true.

We are so grateful for our community to give Jorge this experience!

What if things were different?

There is something that I never discuss, and I sit back and think about all the millions reasons why I don’t speak on the topic is because I do not want to come across as being ungrateful and or that I wished for a different life or for a different child.

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I have always been the mother that just keeps going, I generally do not talk about my feelings, or even show any of my insecurities and my vulnerabilities. I have a huge reputation as being a strong independent woman who can handle just about anything. The truth is I have never learned how to be open with my feelings, it was never taught, so I have gone most of my life living in this world just staying quiet, taking it day by day. To be honest I struggle just as much as any other mother, the future scares me, and there are nights where I just pray for God to please help me with my grief.  

Last night was no different, last night I prayed because I had a fleeting thought that overcome my mind during the day of what life would be like if Leah spoke, what if she didn’t have autism? I couldn’t stop my mind from thinking of how much my life would have been different, I had a totally different imagine of my beautiful 9-year-old daughter came in my mind as she was smiling talking in full sentences and just beaming full of light. I couldn’t help myself and started to daydream of our life would have been so different. The sound of her voice was etched into my mind and the giggles and pointless conversations, the back and forth talking…. Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks! I am grieving, and it comes and goes and this time it hit me hard. It is really unsettling the feeling of loss and wishing that things could have been different.

I remember when Leah was younger, I would cry myself to sleep because I was so scared. She was so young; she was my one and only Leah. We knew we were not going to chance it and have more children, the genetic doctors from Seattle Children’s advised us not to have more children. So, I knew Leah was our gift, she was the little girl whose future was unknown but most importantly she was mine. I struggled in private though the years of when she was younger, we started intensive therapy that was basically 7 days a week with speech therapy in Seattle, along with numerous doctor appointments in Seattle. Years I never felt like I was an adequate mother, because I was always questioned by doctors and specialists about her food, behavior, can she do this or that, learning how to communicate through PECS, Sign Language, one-word utterances.

To me that was motherhood, I was learning a whole new lifestyle, learning something that did not feel authentic because I had to learn it and become good at it myself. It is truly hard, but that was my life. During those years, I knew it was in Leah’s best interest to keep doing whatever I could possible do so when she gets older, she could live a somewhat functioning life. I had to have that drive, motivation, that commitment to hold myself accountable to do the unthinkable of driving countless hours in traffic for that 50-minute appointment once a week then twice a week if I had to. We never took a break, when there were openings, I would ask for it. I was the parent that went to the UW Autism Center on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve because that was the best time to go because there were openings.

I have and will never question this type of dedication I have on helping Leah. I do not write these things to receive accolades or to be told I am the best mother. But to me this life that I never ever envisioned, this is not what I wanted.

I would have loved to have those toddler meltdowns, those first word memories, a baby book filled with pointless things, the preschool experience, the first day experience. Knowing what school was like, who she talked to, who did she play with at school. I sit back and think I missed out on a lot of things, and I know I will in the future.

For now, there is one thing that having a child with Autism that has helped me, without it my life would not be what it is today. If Leah did not have autism, we would not have Leah’s Dream Foundation, her story would have not been shared, my personal story would not have been known. I think writing this , was last nights prayer was answered, I wouldn’t have written this if I didn’t have the fleeting thought of what life would have been like if Leah was able to speak, and what if she didn’t have Autism.

I hope this can help someone who may be going through a hard time, please know you are not alone, none of us are. We are all in this together, there are days that are better than others. Reach out to someone share your story, because I can almost guarantee there is someone who can relate to you in some way.

A mother’s silence..

These past couple of months I have been thinking about topics and things that I normally would never speak up upon, for the simple reason is because of fear and for those to pass judgment upon me. I avoid conflict at all costs even thought it does more harm on myself than good, I agree with others and I usually just stay silent. But recently something happened that made me speak up, after speaking up I felt better for a short period then I found myself regretting it, for the simple reason is because of my fear set in. I had to fight back this negative mindset that started crawling back into my mind, the fear of the judgment of others, the backlash.. I felt so small. But then I came across something that I never noticed, it was a 10 second segment that was aired on King 5 morning news in January regarding the front page of the Marysville Globe about our Magical Holiday Event.. that’s right I said January, a total of 6 months of not knowing this was even aired. It was my sign from God telling me that I shouldn’t let the fear from stopping me from doing the right thing but rather feel empowered. 

So here I am today a few days later sitting back thinking of all the things that I should have spoke up to and not have let fear set me back. Being silent on the issues of bullying, segregation, intimidation, inclusion, and advocacy for individuals with special needs. I’ve personally have struggled with watching my own daughter experience things in her life that most people hopefully wouldn’t have to experience at such a young age. I’ve watched my close friends get scrutinized and belittled by speaking up on behalf of their own personal experiences with their children whom have special needs.

In life we have two choices: to stay silent or to speak up and hope that it is heard by others. I am hopeful that by speaking up it can change the viewpoints and shine a brighter light on the real issues of the struggles that parents are faced with. Just because we have special children we are no less of a person because in reality it is way to often that we do get treated like we are less and yes I’ve personally have been treated that way. 

So cheers to the parents who are constantly advocating for their children despite the scrutiny and the overwhelming feeling that you are not being heard.. even though it may seem that you are getting nowhere by advocating you are not alone hopefully we all come across that one person who will listen and make the change that needs to be made! We are all one and our children are no less and we need to stop with the labeling of individuals. It’s time we start looking past the dis-abilities and to see people for their abilities. I am forever grateful for the love and support we have and continue to receive. #leahsdreamfoundation 

Leah’s dreams coming true

Leah’s dreams coming true

MARYSVILLE – Children with autism can feel left out. They don’t often get invited to parties.

That’s one of the reasons Deanna Sheldon started the charitable nonprofit Leah’s Dream Foundation. Donations are spent on numerous free parties throughout the year that give people with disabilities a chance to socialize. About a few hundred people attended a recent one at Marysville-Pilchuck High School called a “Magical Holiday Event.”

2018 WASA Community Leadership Award

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Friday, May 18 2018

At this event, the District also highlighted the Community Leadership Award Winners, Amy, Ryan, Ray, Deanna, and Alex of the Sheldon Family. This award is given to community members who contribute toward the District’s educational success.

Many wonderful things in the Marysville School District would not be possible without their efforts. Through their 501c3 Leah’s Dream Foundation, they donated $45,000 to build an inclusive play structure at Kellogg Marsh Elementary. Their efforts also funded Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) training for staff and counselors to help them assist students with Autism or physical limitations, and to help them convey their wants and needs to others. Not a day goes by where you don’t see one or more members of the Sheldon Family at a Marysville school, coordinating a family night with the Native Education or Special Education Department, helping lead a parent meeting, working directly to support a student, or cheering on a Marysville athletic team, not to mention their support of the District’s levy efforts. They are truly a staple of this community and our school district. Our staff, students and families are grateful for their love of all students, and their selfless service.

The Marysville School District is thankful to these individuals for all they do to support students, staff and the community of Marysville and Tulalip. Congratulations to all! 

http://www.msd25.org/article/50697