Alive East Bay Magazine

The Lunch Bunch

Through my in-home beauty services business, I provided pedicure services for Jane’s 16th birthday celebration that included her closest friends. It was during this celebration that I became acquainted with Jane’s mother Kelly Meek and a group of inspirational teenagers as they shared the history of their friendship with Jane. This strong tie between them wasn’t just about showing up to a friend’s birthday but showing up for her life to face any mountains right alongside their best friend they have known since 2nd grade. It was that day that I knew I had to write about these beautiful human beings. They exemplify the true meaning of “It Takes A Village” as their love and loyalty continues to surround their friend, helping her to thrive within a family that isn’t just blood-related, but also love-related.

Never mistake someone who is in a wheelchair and needs assistance doing daily tasks as someone who is weak. If you currently have a stereotype about anyone diagnosed with special needs, then you need to meet Jane Coggins. This driven, unique and positive young lady wakes up every morning excited about her day. Her talent with digital animation through the assistance of her communication devices has her focused on pursuing animation courses. Persevering through any challenge, she matches the vision board that hangs in her bedroom with persistent action and, with the help of her mother Kelly, has recently contacted a media company for a job in the animation field.

Diagnosed with “SMA” which stands for Spinal Muscular Atrophy, her voluntary muscles do not receive the messages of the nerve cells (motor neurons) of her spinal cord. There are different levels of muscular limitation based on what age the onset of SMA occurs. The earlier the onset, the more affected the individual. Jane was diagnosed at 10 months old and receives 24-hour assistance. Do not dismay (fiery and creative Jane doesn’t, so why should we?) because the village surrounding her provides not only assistance with basic needs but with friendships where the connections run deep.

The first connection for Jane began with her friend Raquel, in kindergarten. Fast forward to 2nd grade at Buena Vista Elementary in Walnut Creek, California, through the inclusion focus within educational settings, children from mainstream classes were asked if they would like to partner up with individuals in the special needs’ classes

It was this blessed connection that formed “The Lunch Bunch” and added to Jane’s friend list was Madi, Gabi, Alisa, Kathryn and Amelia. These seven musketeers will show anyone a thing or two about never putting a person of any age or “disability” into a box. If you are ever worried about the future of our world, the teenagers that will soon take the paths provided for them along with paving new ones, please refer to this article as many times as needed. The driven, devoted and compassionate actions of this group spark the light of hope.

For example, Amelia started a bracelet fundraiser when they were all in 7th grade to help raise funds for a hot tub that provided physical therapy for Jane. Titled “Come Together for Jane,” Amelia and the rest of the Lunch Bunch raised $1000.00 selling the bracelets at school and in their neighborhood. Gabi dedicated a whole page of their school’s yearbook to share Jane’s story. They wrote a letter and obtained 300 signatures to petition the Acalanes Unified High School District to provide appropriate education as Jane transitioned from 8th grade into high school. This year they will all take part in the “Walk-n-Roll” fundraiser to help raise awareness and research funds for SMA. They all show up through major efforts but, most importantly, they all show up for Jane daily and keep her a part of their daily lives—hanging out, holidays, trick or treating, and birthday celebrations, to name a few.

As a mom who sees these displays of light towards her daughter while also looking within, Kelly expresses her gratitude for growing up in the Walnut Creek community. Being a parent who appreciates all that life offers, she practices Reiki and is active in the “Yoga Works” community, and even conducted a fundraiser called “Yoga From the Heart for Jane.”

Sitting down with the “Lunch Bunch” gives one a new perspective—one where you realize there are selfless people everywhere willing to encircle others with emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual support. But you won’t be “sitting” for long, as this group will pull you back up in so many wonderful ways.

So, as they prepare for the “Walk-n-Roll” fundraiser walk on August 24th at Kennedy Grove in El Sobrante, California, in an event benefitting SMA research and treatment, you’ll see a group of women who don’t just sit with a friend, they hold her hand as they all walk this thing called life—a good life indeed, with the “Lunch Bunch.”

For more information about the Walk-n-Roll, Cure SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) contact Cure SMA at, or call 800.886.1762, or email

Stefanie Boggs-Johnson is the author of “I See You, Little Naomi” and “I See You, Little Andrew.” Her educational children’s books promote special needs awareness and compassion. She is also a licensed cosmetologist and owner of For Every Season, a mobile beauty service for the special needs community. For more information visit


Mirror Talk: Delay



There is no progress without faith.  Without faith, you will remain attached to what you know.  You do not trust that you can have anything different.  As you wait in the delay, the darkness of the unknown that occurs between the planting and the harvest, despair and fear keeps you camped in the mountains you know.  Without faith, the unknown will have you continually accepting the problems that you are used to surrounding you.  Without faith, the same detrimental thought patterns will stir within you that stalls the evolvement of a self-transformation.  It is time to break camp.  Get to work on bringing out then packing up the mental, emotional and spiritual clutter while you wait for God to provide the next step.  Have faith that your next experience will be exactly what you need, but didn’t know you needed.  The delay is not a denial.

#MirrorTalk #DelayIsNotDenial #Delay

Duet 1:6-7 “When we were at Mount Sinai, the Lord our God said to us, ‘You have stayed at this mountain long enough. 7 It is time to break camp and move on.”


Mirror Talk: Darkness Of The Unknown

Sometimes you must give in to the darkness of the unknown, the darkness of waiting in order for a light to be brought to you instead of the light that you ache for and chase.  Some spiritual lessons are passed with integrity only when you allow the universe to do what it’s going to do, where the only action from you is the action of waiting and drawing closer to God.  No matter what triggers or chaos that may be placed in your path that will try to distract you from the final result coming your way, be okay and be still in the darkness of the unknown.  The darkness of the unknown is where your transformation takes place.

John 1:5   Everything was created through him; nothing—not one thing!— came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by. The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.

#MirrorTalk #DarknessOfTheUnknown


Alive East Bay Magazine

Mind Over Matter


During one of my “productive” bouts of checking my social media newsfeeds, I came upon a post by this awesome woman that was for families of young stroke survivors. Her post brought tears to my eyes because I am part of this flock of parents that still can “lose the wind” under my wings as I try to stay above the tough moments so that I can protect and be there for my ten year old daughter who shares the same medical mountain of being an en utero stroke survivor. It gave me chills that I was given an emotional refill of hope for my daughter’s future because of the gift of another’s triumph and courage to share their story. The mountain is never climbed alone. I read her post over and over again, knowing that her words had to be shared. May her story remind us all that our fears of the unknown are not the authors of our lives. Our story is not done. May we remember what truly matters—that only strength, hope, and love have the final say.

My name is Taylor Teal and I live in Denham Springs, Louisiana. I am 22 years old and a pediatric stroke survivor. Shortly after birth the nurse noticed I was having episodes of asphyxiation and I was tested for various conditions. After twenty-two hours it was determined I had a stroke in utero and was having seizures as a result. A CAT scan determined one third of my brain was severely damaged. Due to the amount of fluid on my brain, the doctors determined that the stroke had occurred at least 7-10 days before my birth.

My stroke caused the left side of my body to be very weak. I have limited use of my left arm or hand and I also walk with a limp. I started physical therapy at one month old and continued to do it until I was about 15 years old. Due to not fully being able to use my right arm and hand, I had struggles throughout my life and still do at times. Most of my struggles were physical tasks such as getting dressed, tying my shoes and blow-drying my hair. Some tasks I still have difficulty doing are opening things like water bottles, cutting food, picking up heavy things, and putting on jewelry.

As I got older, I taught myself how to do most everything by using one hand, like tying my shoes, dressing myself, and putting my hair in a pony-tail. Although I had struggles, my parents always found ways to help me do things my way. When I couldn’t ride a bike, they got me a tricycle. I wanted to play softball like “normal” kids, so they helped me learn to play by holding and swinging the bat with one hand. Those are a few examples.

It is important to think outside the box when it comes to figuring out how to do things, even though they may not be done the way an individual with no medical limitations would do them. I have always had high spirits and been very determined when it came to overcoming obstacles. Some negative effects on my family are that they constantly worry about the things I have a difficult time doing and how I will do certain things as I get older. A positive effect for them has been to see how strong, independent, and determined this has made me.

My experience of being a pediatric stroke survivor hasn’t always been easy, but it has made me the person I am today. I often wondered growing up “Why did this have to happen to me?” I wanted to be normal like other kids but knew I never would. I would just always remind myself that God made me this way and He did so for a reason. He knew I would be able to handle this situation and overcome so many things for which I am forever grateful. I am inspired by others I meet who are going through similar struggles in life and finding ways to thrive.

This past May I graduated college, earning a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies. This has been my biggest accomplishment thus far in life. I am now working for a case management company as a support coordinator for people with special needs. I have always been extremely passionate towards individuals with special needs due to my own situation and the many years of being around others with special needs at therapy. I always knew I wanted to do something involving people with special needs and I am so thankful I am now able to do so.

My advice for individuals with special needs is to not let your situation define you, because it absolutely doesn’t. One must never give up no matter how frustrating or hard it can be at times; you can do anything you put your mind to. It is okay to be different and not “normal.” This was very hard for me to accept when I was younger. The older I got the more I realized that just because I am different, it does not mean that I am not able to do the same tasks or activities. My advice for families of those with special needs would be to never lose hope or give up on them. They need your help and support more than you know, so always try and stay positive. Even though it may not be an easy road and there will be difficult times, find the good in every situation. My advice to mainstream families would be do not treat those with special needs any different than any other individual.

Last but not least, always accept those with differences because it is okay to be different.

For more information regarding pediatric stroke, please visit: