2016 Unsung Hero Awards: Local parents awarded for strength

* Please see video and picture slideshow below. More photos to come!

CONCORD – Applause filled the room and kids squirmed in their seats as Governor Maggie Hassan entered the Governor and Council Chambers in the Legislative Office Building on Friday night.

The governor and New Hampshire Children’s Trust/Prevent Child Abuse New Hampshire presented 29 awards to parents and caregivers, to honor and recognize these extraordinary individuals going above and beyond to be the best parents they can be. Honorees and their families gathered in the New Hampshire State House in Concord for the 9th Annual Unsung Hero Parent Recognition Awards ceremony.

“Every kid needs to know that they’ve got a grown-up in their corner," Hassan said. “I’m looking out at a whole bunch of adults who are those grown-ups.”

Each award recipient and their family proudly stood to be photographed with Governor Hassan while accepting their award. After the ceremony, families gathered for a reception to celebrate their accomplishments and enjoy refreshments.

“This is my favorite event of the year. To see the parents being honored for being strong for their kids is such a joy,” says Julie Day, Strengthening Families Director at NH Children’s Trust.

Coming from all counties of our state, 29 award recipients were nominated by family, friends or co-workers who believe they are doing the very best with what they have. Specifically, each of these exemplary parents have shown effective use of some or all of the 5 Protective Factors:

o   Parental Resilience: Overcoming everyday stress and bouncing back.
o   Social Connections: Having people who know and support them.
o   Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Where to find out about parenting skills and developmental growth.
o   Concrete Support in Times of Need: Knowing where to turn for help.
o   Social and Emotional Competence: Knowing how to help their children talk about their feelings.

A parent is defined as a dual parent, single parent, grandparents, foster or adoptive parent.

NH Children's Trust is committed to eliminating child abuse and neglect by helping families to build Protective Factors that buffer them in times of stress.  It is an honor to recognize ordinary parents for being heroes to their children and role models for their community.

“Why do we do this?” Lara Quiroga, Chair of the Board at NH Children’s Trust asked. “Because each one of these people are strong and resilient caregivers that have made a difference in the life of a child.”

Below are the 2016 honorees:

Lacey Anderson was nominated by Erin Kelly. Lacey has overcome tremendous adversity throughout her life including difficult medical concerns for her children, and still proves to be an incredible role model to her three children. Laura inspires people around her by being helpful, kind, and caring for others- all while parenting her children with patience and grace.

Chuck Beckley was nominated by Carolee Longley. Chuck is a single father of two sons. He has overcome many tragedies, including a house fire which displaced his family. Even with an exceedingly full plate, Chuck remained a positive role model for his children, and proved to be a relentless advocate for his older son during a time of illness.

Lauren Baylor was nominated by Jody Mancini. Lauren is one of the hardest working and cheerful students Jody has ever encountered. Lauren juggles classes, homework, peer tutoring, and more…all while maintaining a high GPA and a parenting her six-year-old daughter. Lauren has many positive attributes that she is seen demonstrating to her young daughter.

Barbara Chagnon was nominated by Laura Dodge. Since losing her daughter in a tragic car accident, Barbara has been devoted to raising her granddaughter. Although she is parenting her daughter’s daughter, she maintains both roles as mother and grandmother so well.

Tia Cloutier was nominated by Crystal Chilafoe. Tia has been a strong force who has kept her family going through hard times, especially while her husband is deployed as a soldier in the US Army. Tia advocates for her children when necessary, and encourages them to be kind and productive members of the community.

Maryellen Costa was nominated by her daughter Laurie Costa. Maryellen has provided a wonderful life for all 5 of her children, but fought especially hard for her daughter Amy, who sadly lost her life to a rare disorder called Aicardi Syndrome. Maryellen’s devotion to her daughter, Amy, as well as her resilience and unwavering compassion is an inspiration to her remaining children, and to many parents in the Aicardi Syndrome community.

Jessica Dale and Neko Sanchez were nominated by Kacey Micucci. When their son Luis came along, they made a promise that their children were never going to live the life they did. Together, they have overcome obstacles and removed themselves from negative situations. They work hard every day to fulfil their promise and use tools given to them to be the best parents they can be.

Heather Donnell was nominated by Melissa Cardin. Heather is a young mother of two. Her youngest child faces a multitude of health concerns. On top of parenting her two children, and constantly advocating for her youngest child’s needs, Heather started a program called “Lucas’s Helping Hands” to help provide assistance to others.

Cassandra Driscoll was nominated by her husband, Bill Driscoll. Cassandra moved to NH and waited for Bill to return from his tour in Afghanistan, and also gave birth to their first child while he was away fighting for our country. Sadly, their baby lost her life 3 months after birth. Cassandra’s courage after this crisis enabled the couple to move forward and give birth to a healthy baby girl one year later.

Beth Felix was nominated by Emily Kowalski. Beth’s kindness was noticed after she became involved in her daughter’s school’s PTA, and worked hard to provide ALL of the children at the school with supplies and opportunities. Since then, she has organized clothing and toy drives for children at the school, as well as holiday cookie decorating. In addition to all the kindness and support she brings to the community, one of Beth’s greatest accomplishments is Kaylee, who is following in her mother’s footsteps in terms of care, love, compassion, and selflessness.

Stephanie George was nominated by Pam Miller Sallet. Stephanie has not only worked hard on her own parenting, but has also positively impacted many fellow parents in the Families Reaching Our Goals Program. Although she came from a challenging background, Stephanie has proven to be a wonderful mother. She gives back to the community in many ways, while supporting her children’s individual needs.

Joe and Donna Goulet were nominated by Cindy Jury. Joe and Donna have adopted four siblings. Although finances and health can be challenging for Joe and Donna, they both continue to work and spend many hours volunteering. Joe and Donna’s four children are polite, kind, compassionate, and always willing to help others. Their children’s behavior is a result of the constant love, support, and empathy they receive daily from Joe and Donna.

Linda Grant was nominated by Heidi Toursie. Linda is a single mom raising 5 children ranging from 2 to 11 years old. Linda has done everything she can in terms of advocacy and support for her children. As a Marine Veteran, Linda also advocates for Veterans and the challenges they face, all while incorporating the protective factors into her own family’s life.

Dawn Holdsworth was nominated by Daniela Duyck. Dawn is an incredible foster parent, and also has children of her own. She is currently fostering a five-year-old who has had past trauma leading to behavioral challenges. Dawn has relentlessly worked to make this child feel secure and loved. 

Trent Howard was nominated by Debbie Farr, Christina Vassillion, Heather Thibodeau, and Kathleen Jaworski. No matter what Trent is dealing with, he shows parental resilience by keeping a positive attitude and always showing love to his daughter. Trent shoulders tremendous responsibility for his children and other family members and is not afraid to ask for help or for suggestions. His commitment to raising his children in a happy healthy environment is heart-warming.

Paul Knowles was nominated by Melissa LeBrun. Paul is a single father who raised his daughter to become a strong, resilient young woman who lives a healthy lifestyle. Paul has had painful losses in his life, but through it all, he has remained dedicated to making sure his daughter gets everything she needs. Paul also volunteers in his community to make it a better place for other families.

Daniel Marcoux was nominated by his daughter, Denielle Marcoux as well as Heather Woodman and Danielle Paradis. Daniel is a single father who raised his three children on his own. Out of necessity, he was granted custody of his infant grandson. Shortly after, his youngest daughter passed away. On top of working full time, Daniel is wholeheartedly dedicated to raising his grandson. Daniel is such an inspiration to his daughter, Denielle, who has seen him find the strength to carry on through tremendous adversity.

June Marston was nominated by Barbara Ross. While working at Children Unlimited, June became involved with 2 little girls who were victims of severe abuse and neglect. June worked hard to incorporate the protective factors into these girls lives, while supporting and not judging the biological parents. June and her husband eventually adopted the girls and another boy. She provided a wonderful home for all three of her children, who are now productive adults.

Antonio McDonald and Tim Davis were nominated by Melissa Kimball. As the adoptive parents to two teenagers, the love, strength and compassion that both of these men bring to their children does not go unnoticed. Tim and Tony have never given up on their family even through the most difficult times. Tim and Tony’s dedication to their family is rare and precious. 

Catherine Meister was nominated by her husband, Mark Meister. Catherine is the mother to seven wonderful children. After having three children of her own, she took in four additional children with unique needs. Catherine has helped hundreds of children, both personally and professionally. Due to her belief that all children can be successful with the right supports, she has been able to overcome many obstacles and help so many children have a better life.

Dawn Nelson was nominated by Alisa Macone and Marsha Forand. Dawn is currently helping raise her two nieces and nephew. Dawn has been involved in every aspect of these children’s lives since birth. The children have had a very difficult past, and Dawn has always been their “safe place.” Dawn is a strong, resilient, solution based individual and although her plate is quite full, she also acts as a support to her own daughter, her grandchildren, and the children in her community.

Ashley and Michael Pelczar were nominated by Jenn Cronin. Ashley and Michael were very excited for the birth of their first son, Tobin. When he was diagnosed with 1p36 Deletion Syndrome, the new parents reached out for what they needed, kept a positive attitude, and advocated for their son. Tobin has sadly passed away, but his parents vowed to keep his memory alive. They give back to those who did so much for them during their time of crisis, and through it all, Ashley and Michael remain role model parents for their son Nason.

Katherine and Keith Robert were nominated by Tara Pitarys. Katherine and Keith have been foster parents for just over 3 years. In that time, they have fostered, provided respite and crisis support to over 70 children. They have welcomed children into their home from babies born addicted and abused, to teenagers at 3am in a family crisis. They always say “yes” to a child in need. Through fostering they have been blessed with the adoption of two children.

Rosanne Santos was nominated by Kaylynn Trombley. Rosanne is a single foster parent who works full time and is in the process of adopting four siblings. She is very able to work through conflict resolution and is an exceptional role model for the children. Rosanne has never given up on any of the siblings and continues to provide support, love, boundaries, and understanding without judgement. 

Jacki Summa was nominated by Pati Frew-Waters. Jacki risked everything to move her and her boys away from an unsafe situation, and ended up homeless as a result. She worked diligently towards making life better and never hesitated to come to the Seacoast Family Promise office and say “Ok, I have completed my goals. What other ideas do you have to make our lives better?’’. Her ability to make difficult decisions, her love of laughter, and love for her two boys, is making their lives better each and every day. 

Amy St Pierre was nominated by Sharon Lyman. After moving to Canaan with her husband and son, tragedy struck the family. Amy’s husband passed away unexpectedly and Amy had to immediately deal with the loss of her husband, a new business, and trying to do what was best for her son, Jack. In the past year, not only has Amy continued to work full time, be involved in the community, and maintain her husband’s campground, she also donates to the Helping Hands Program that provides toys and clothing for families that need help during the holidays.  

Robyn Saulnier was nominated by Nancy Wohl. Robyn has taken on the role of parenting her two grandsons with unquestioning commitment. As a result of their difficult past, the boys have proven to be quite challenging at times yet, she loves them unconditionally. Robyn has modeled courage and grit and has given all of herself to these two children.  

Tanya Whittum was nominated by her mother, Eva Martin. Every day is a struggle for Tanya, to do what needs to be done due to fibromyalgia and degenerative disc disease. However, this does not stop her from playing an active part in her children’s lives. She is a busy mom who pushes through her pain to ensure a happy life for her children and community.

Kaitlyn Woodbury was nominated by Michelle Betts. Kaitlyn is a single mom of two young boys one of whom was diagnosed with autism. Since then, she has become a peer support to other parents with children who have special needs through her church. She has also been advocating for expanded Medicaid and recovery supports throughout the Lakes Region.

Special thank you to Fidelity, for sponsoring the Unsung Hero Awards for seven years running.