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. đź’š

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 or visit their Facebook group page: Care Parent Network

Alive East Bay Magazine


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



Breaking through barriers is never easy. There will be individuals who will support your endeavors and have your back, and there will be others who belittle your goals and dreams. Then there are those on the same path as you. You join the flock and decide not to give up after all. You keep going for that goal.

That is what AYSO VIP League did for my perspective of finding a sport for children within the special needs community. A soccer organization that offers competitive sports for the mainstream and a non-competitive sport for those diagnosed with special needs (VIP), my husband and I signed up our ten-year-old daughter. We were not disappointed.

The season recently ended and, after having the enjoyment of watching my daughter’s confidence flourish on the field, I was so impressed. It was so positive and touching to watch how the VIP coaches and mainstream coaches collaborated in each game. Assigned as “buddies,” the team of mainstream kids patiently interacted with the VIP team. I watched inclusion and a balance of competitiveness of which the opposing team adjusted, based on the skill level of my daughter’s team. It was an hour of easygoing enjoyment where no mama or papa bear showed their fangs on the sidelines. The players played, the parents watched, and the coaches coached.

It was because of the coaches that these moments were able to occur with passion, focus and consistency—all of it done on a volunteer basis. The coaches, past and present, exemplified action that came from their hearts. As I recently sat with them enjoying a spaghetti dinner at the VIP Soccerfest costume party, I was amazed at how long they all have been dedicated to providing an inclusive sport for a special group of young individuals.

The fearless leader of my daughter’s team, “Goalbusters,” Peter Gaughan (aka Coach Pete) has volunteered with the AYSO VIP league for 21 years with some of those years as Director for the league. His spunky “let’s do this!” attitude was apparent to me the moment I meant him. To find out how long he has been giving his time and energy only added to my respect for him. His coaching assistant, Cecilia Romero-Chavez, became involved after moving from Richmond to Pleasant Hill and began looking for sports activities for her son. Through her “Googling,” she became part of AYSO VIP in 2006 and is currently the Division Coordinator. They are a duo that follows through with emails, practices and games. Also in attendance at the league’s Halloween celebration was Steve Forbes, who began volunteering in 1997. Even though he no longer volunteers as a coach, there he was attending this event for these special kids out of pure admiration for the division and all it stands for—inclusion. I truly felt surrounded by sincere human beings.

If you are a parent of a child diagnosed with a special need and are in doubt of which way to turn or how to find a compatible environment, just know that you are not alone in feeling overwhelmed or in despair. Uplifting, helpful, and inspiring resources are available in many different forms. Achieving milestones are possible for people of all abilities. There is a flock ready to include you to help you bust through any barriers and reach the goal. I know this to be true because my family and I started out with so much fear and despair. Now, ten years later, we get to witness our daughter “bust” out of any restrictive assumptions that society prematurely places, and she is achieving more goals than we ever could have imagined. Every child is born with VIP status but AYSO helped remind my daughter’s teammates that they are all “Goalbusters.”

Thank you AYSO VIP league coaches and volunteers. I hope my gratitude in this article is the fuel that keeps reminding all of you that your devoted actions do make a difference. It is your efforts that reminds me that there is always a flock that I can call upon. As Coach Pete would say at the end of every game, “Who you gonna call?”, I happily answer along with my daughter “Goalbusters!”

For more information about AYSO VIP League, please visit