FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities (MCBDD) Family Support Group held an event with close to 200 caregivers and parents. The event was titled, Lifting Up Disabled Families – from Surviving to Thriving and delivered a message of inspiration, compassion, and hope. Organizer Lindsay Criswell, Owner of Branch & Stone Studio, was thrilled with the reception.
“I knew that the stories of our speakers were powerful and would draw a crowd, and Marion County did not disappoint,” Criswell said of the attendance.
Criswell facilitates the art classes at the MCBDD Family Support Group held on the third Thursday of each month at the County Board of DD. Criswell is also a parent to three boys, one with an Autism diagnosis. She not only coordinated the entire event; she was a parent panelist.
The two featured speakers for the event, Kate Swenson and Jess Ronne are authors, social media celebrities, and nationally-known advocates. They drew guests to the Marion event from West Virginia, Indiana, and New York.
Kate Swenson authors the blog and curates the content for the Facebook page Finding Cooper’s Voice. She regularly speaks about autism, parenting, and motherhood. Swenson contributes to Today Parents, Her View from Home, and the Love What Matters blog. She has also been featured recently on The Today Show and wrote a book that she gave away at the Marion event. The book is called Forever Boy. Her mission is to create a safe space for families of children and teens with special needs to come together and laugh, cry and support each other. Kate lives with her four children and husband in Minnesota. Her oldest child Cooper is on the Autism Spectrum, and he and Kate have captivated the hearts of a worldwide audience.
Jessica Ronne is a wife, mother, author, and advocate. She lives in Michigan with her husband Ryan and eight children, where they cultivate a simple life, which they’ve discovered isn’t all that simple. She is the author of Sunlight Burning at Midnight, her memoir of beauty from ashes, and her latest book, Blended with Grit and Grace, which she gave to each attendee at the Lifting Up Disabled Families event. She can be found at jessplusthemess.com, blogging about faith, grief, food, simplicity, special needs children, and blended families. In addition, Jess and her husband, Ryan, will unveil a powerful documentary titled, Unseen, which premiers on May 20th. This documentary follows the couple and their blended family through the raw and somewhat lonely life of being a full-time caregiver for their son, Lucas. He has profound disabilities requiring total care.
The event also hosted a parent panel that included Swenson and Ronne along with three local parents, April Horne, Gretchen Jolliff, and Lindsay Criswell. During the panel discussion, the parents reflected on the progression of emotions that come with parenting a child with disabilities. Their personal experiences resonated with the audience, which included parents and caregivers. Many attendees have “been there.” The content created an understanding of the challenges and joys expressed by the panel.
The evening wrapped up with time to meet the authors and get the free books signed.
Love and admiration for caregivers were felt throughout the room. Many attendees gathered to connect and continue the conversation well after the event.
“Drawing so many parents and caregivers from multiple states to hear this message and feel love from their tribe was inspiring and emotional,” said Nikki Workman, Marion County Board of Developmental Disabilities communication director.
A special thank you to the Marion Community Foundation, which approved a grant for the MCBDD Family Support Group, which used a portion of those funds to host this event.