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A Season of Gratitude and Thankfulness: Past, Present, Future

A Season of Gratitude and Thankfulness:  Past, Present, Future

Looking back, It is hard to imagine how much has changed in 30 years.  30 Years ago our son was born, 10 weeks early spending over 5 months in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I will never forget that first winter, those first 8 or 9 months when I was essentially trapped at home with a medically fragile, immune suppressed, adorable and very sick little boy and how isolated I felt.

The past…..

1987 Life was still pretty isolating.  No parent to parent organizations and it was hard to find support. Eventually my son was healthy enough to have therapy at a rehab center and I attended a group there.   No internet, no cell phones, and no social media. Mostly I was stuck at home.

1994 Pagers became affordable. I could have a life! I could go to the grocery store during the day while my medically fragile kids were in school and wasn’t stuck at home waiting by the phone for the calls that came, sometimes daily but at least once a week. I could have a job where I traveled around the region supporting other families with kids with special needs and my own children’s team could reach me! I was a big fan of pagers!

1996 Cell phones were starting to become more affordable for many families and I got one!  Still looking for ways that families could connect with one another. Support groups were fine, and I still attended them when I could find them and referred families. But could we do more?

1997 Parents gathered for the Summit at the Summit and Parent to Parent of Colorado (P2P-CO) was formed. The internet was growing and many pieces of the puzzle were starting to come together.  People had ideas of how to connect parents to a grassroots, organized group that could build inclusive communities, provide one another with information and emotional support and take constructive group action. Some forward thinking folks started exploring the idea of using personal computers to connect parents.

1998 The very first message was posted to the brand spanking new P2P-CO e-group which became Yahoo Groups listserv and is now our Online Parent Support Group.

1999 Two coordinators were hired as the first paid Parent to Parent staff.  Their primary function was creating and supporting groups of parents. At the same time, one of our coordinators started growing this unique new technology for supporting parents. I don’t remember when I posted the first time but I know by August of ’99 I was reading daily and often responding. The P2P-CO group became my lifeline. Being able to connect no matter the time of day or night meant so much to me!

Fast forward to the present…

2017 We are celebrating our 20th Anniversary of Parent to Parent of Colorado.  Through technology we are now connected with over 4000 families across Colorado and with a nation-wide network of Parent to Parent organizations.  Listservs are very old technology. Facebook and other social media platforms give everyone —  not just families with sons and daughters with disabilities — the ability to connect.

My heart is thankful everyday. For my family. For my larger disability family. For the technology that continues to be a tool to help me stay connected.  I will never forget that first winter and how isolated I felt.  At Parent to Parent, we hear almost daily, how support from another parent helps a new parent cope and feel less alone.  Life is so much better now.  The connections make a difference!

What will the future hold? 

As technology continues to change, one thing remains constant – parents need other parents in this journey of parenting our sons and daughters with disabilities and special health care needs.  Together, we continue to ask questions, give and receive advice, and vent when needed.  There is nothing like the connection with another parent who has “been there, done that” to support us in our journey!

 

Editor’s Note:  As we move through this journey of parenting our sons and daughters, we are thankful for those parents who have come before us and those who walk beside us!  The efforts of Parent to Parent of Colorado are sustained through the support from our community.  Donating on Colorado Gives Day makes us eligible for additional dollars through the Incentive Fund.   Please help us Celebrate 20 years of Supporting Parents by making your donation  at https://www.coloradogives.org/P2PCO

 

Renee Walbert is a mom of three adult children and an Oma to one beautiful granddaughter. She is a part of the past, present, and hopefully, future of Parent to Parent of Colorado. Renee writes frequently for Parenting with Altitude and coordinates the efforts of other authors. To submit your blog, contact her at: rwalbertp2p@abilityconnectioncolorado.org

 

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