Unsung Hero Awards 2015

CONCORD- Applause filled the room as Governor Maggie Hassan read a proclamation, announcing February as Parent Recognition Month.

On Tuesday, February 3rd, New Hampshire Children’s Trust/Prevent Child Abuse New Hampshire presented 28 awards to parents and caregivers, to honor and recognize these extraordinary people who go above and beyond to be the best parents that they can be. Honorees and their families gathered in the Governor and Council Chambers at the New Hampshire State House in Concord for the 8th Annual Unsung Hero Parent Recognition Awards ceremony.

“To help strengthen our families and our communities, and I can think of no better way to do that than to honor the people who, day in and day out, are working with children and their families to make every human’s life better, to support every child with a kind of foundational grounding that they need," said Hassan

Each award recipient and their family proudly stood while being photographed as they accepted their award from the governor.  After the ceremony, families gathered for a reception to further celebrate with refreshments and coloring activities.

“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.

Award recipients were nominated by family, friends or co-workers who believe the parents’ strength and empathy make them role-models. Nominators also believe the Unsung Heroes demonstrate effective use of the 5 Protective Factors:

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

The New Hampshire Children's Trust is committed to eliminating child abuse and neglect by helping families to build Protective Factors to buffer them in times of stress. 

Executive Director Keryn Bernard-Kriegl says, “It is an honor to recognize  parents for being heroes to their children and role models for their community.”

"Our "hero" Jen is so proud - She has come such a long way and her courage and new-found confidence brings me to tears.

I thank her several times a day for what she does, but the acknowledgment by NH Children's Trust, the Governor and the ceremony with her family created a whole new milestone!"

- Cindy Jury, Salem Family Resources 

2015 Unsung Hero Award Recipients:

  • Susan Bahkrakis

    Susan Bahrakis, of Pelham, was nominated by Nicole Gilliam. Susie lost both of her sons at a young age to medical conditions. Despite this unimaginable tragedy, she has bounced back and made advocating and caring for children her life’s work. In addition to caring for others’ children daily, Susie has taken in her three grandchildren. They are thriving in a healthy, safe and supportive home environment. In spite of her own medical issues, Susie manages to be an amazing role model for others!

  • Kristy Blanchette

    Kristy Blanchette, of Laconia, was nominated by Caroline Martin. Kristy is the mother of two. Her one year old daughter, who was born prematurely, still requires a feeding tube in order to thrive. Kristy has been very strong throughout this experience and is determined to succeed and provide for her children. Her commitment is proven by the fact that she is currently a student, maintains a 4.0 GPA, is successful in her job and also calls Bingo numbers at her son’s school to help cover the cost of tuition. 

  • Lucas Cavalliere

    Lucas Cavalliere, of Swanzey, was nominated by Karen Mattock, Kimberly Bunker and Mia Hulslander. Lucas has worked hard to overcome many setbacks in his life. He is a caring and supportive father to his daughter and step son. Lucas has built a strong support system around himself to ensure he has what he needs in order for his family to thrive. He is a role model for parents at the Head Start Center where he volunteers and is affectionately known as “Mr. Lucas” by the children.

  • Janell Davis

    Janell Davis, of Nashua, was nominated by Nancy Pynchon. Janell has been raising her three children by herself while her husband has been away for the past three years. She manages to do this while also holding down a full-time job and going to graduate school. As the lead teacher in the infant room at a child care center, Janell is a role model to other parents. Within her own family, Janell has helped her children cope with their fathers’ absence, but has made sure that he is aware of all the children’s accomplishments over the years.

  • Paul Dovich

    Paul Dovich, of Greenland, was nominated by Leah Wells. Paul has served his country for many years as a member of the Armed Forces, including tours in Afghanistan. He is the devoted father of two young children. After his daughter was rushed to Boston Children’s Hospital and spent a Christmas there, Paul decided to create a stuffed animal drive for children who spend their holiday in the hospital away from friends and family. Operation Stuffy is in its third year, bringing joy to the lives of children away from home during the holidays.

  • Judy Downing

    Judy Downing, of Gilford, was nominated by Mary Mirkin. Judy and her husband are parenting their three grandchildren. In spite of family hardship, Judy manages to work full-time and provide the primary care for these active children. One of the children is affected by a chronic medical condition which requires ongoing medical and therapy appointments. Judy has not hesitated to utilize various community resources to create an outstanding quality of life for her grandchildren.

  • Chuck & April Eastman

    Chuck and April Eastman, of Penacook, were nominated by Sally Fisher. Chuck and April have two children. Their 18 year old son suffered a traumatic brain injury several years ago. As a family they have grown together, despite the struggles they have faced while navigating this uncharted territory. Now advocates for the National Alliance on Mental Illness NH, they have successfully supported each other and both of their children through a roller coaster of experiences, becoming stronger themselves while inspiring and assisting others.

  • Cynthia Greco

    Cynthia Greco, of Jaffrey, was nominated by Jan Wilkins. Along with parenting her own three children, Cindy received full guardianship of her two young nieces following the sudden death of their mother. Cindy works full-time while remaining actively engaged in her children’s school. She is also the president of the Jaffrey Head Start Parent Association. In spite of her own medical issues, Cindy remains positive, always has a smile on her face and is willing to help anyone in need.

  • Jeff Girouard & Evan Tassis

    Jeff Girouard and Evan Tassis, of Berlin, were nominated by Linda Pivin. Jeff and Evan have been foster parents since 2010. Not only have they provided temporary care, but they have opened up their home and adopted two children. Jeff and Evan are always willing to welcome additional children into their home. Moreover, they ensure that their adopted daughters remain in contact with their siblings placed in other foster homes, understanding the importance of maintaining the bond that these children share. In addition, Jeff and Evan are strong advocates for the teens in their care, helping them with plans for the future.

  • James & Allison Hall

    James and Allison Hall, of W. Stewartstown, were nominated by Gina Belanger. After learning that his biological son had been living in foster homes in Texas, James and his wife Allison worked with agencies to seek and receive custody of his three year old son. Home visits have helped ensure a strong North Country start for their  child. James and Ally have worked together with humor and kindness as they learn about age appropriate milestones and help their child achieve these milestones. They face and overcome challenges as a family and are well on their way to building a strong foundation for their son.

  • Sue & Basil Hills

    Sue and Basil Hills, of Exeter, were nominated by Toni Viola. Sue and Basil are foster parents of a teen whose parents are incarcerated. They strive to ensure that a strong connection is maintained between the biological parents and their foster child. They have provided a strong, disciplined home and made sure lines of communication with both parents were open and honest. Throughout this journey they have been a role model not only for their foster son, but for the biological parents as well. 

  • Mandy Irving

    Mandy Irving, of Franklin, was nominated by her mother, Joann Irving. Mandy’s mother describes her as “strong, caring, sensitive, my Rosie the Riveter, Mrs. Cleaver and Mr. Rogers role model mom.” As the mother of two, she also holds two jobs, efficiently runs a household, coaches 5 year olds in softball, was a birth coach for a deployed soldier’s wife, and recycles children’s books, clothing and toys for those less fortunate. Mandy is sensitive to the struggles of other moms and leads by example.

  • Alexis Jacques

    Alexis Jacques, of South Tamworth, was nominated by Heather Towle. Alexis’ daughter required extended care at the hospital when she was born. During this time, both Alexis and her husband bounced back with grace as they received guidance on their journey through different challenges. Feeding was a struggle, but both parents were committed to what was best for their newborn. In spite of the challenges that arose alongside their commitment to breastfeeding, their daughter’s needs came first.  Alexis joined the weekly breastfeeding support group and deserves praise and acknowledgement for doing what was best for her baby.

  • Jayco & Sophie Laughton

    Jayco and Sophie Laughton, of Berlin, were nominated by Sue Watson. The Laughton’s are parents to two children. Since Jayco serves in the National Guard, he and Sophie are a part of the Easter Seals Veteran/Military Services program. During Jayco’s past three deployments, the family has remained strong and communicates effectively. To help keep the children on track during difficult deployments, Sophie remains active in school activities, dance classes, Girl Scouts and more. She has a great support system through other military wives and her own family. Jayco and his family work together when he returns as he transitions back into life at home. Jayco and Sophie focus on communication and providing a safe and stable environment for the children.

  • Alfonso Kuri & Diana Chavez

    Alfonso Kuri and Diana Chavez, of Nashua, were nominated by Ivonne Rosario. Alfonso and Diana are the parents of three children, including their 13 year old son whom is affected by severe medical issues. Alfonso works the second shift so that he can help with the morning routine, such as getting their son onto the bus and helping with the numerous doctors’ appointments. They take the time to ensure that their son’s emotional and physical needs are more than met. Their home is always open to friends for the sharing of board games or bingo. They are an amazing family where there is much love.

  • Carol Crosby Lizotte

    Carol Crosby Lizotte, of Dunbarton, was nominated by Karen Cusano. Carol began her journey as a single mother with twin girls. To give her daughters the best life possible, shortly after their birth she enrolled in online college classes, read parenting books and took part in parenting groups. She is now married with a third child and a bachelor’s degree! Carol is a role model on how to take tragedy, loss and hardship and turn it into character, self-determination, and strength.

  • Annette Marino

    Annette Marino, of Seabrook, was nominated by Paula Boivin. Because of her husband’s disability, Annette is the main provider for her family of five and is also enrolled in school. Her children face obstacles such as autism and ADHD, but Annette is a strong advocate for her children within their school. She works hand in hand with school officials to ensure that her children are learning and developing and to foster her children’s development within the home environment. Annette is tireless in her desire to improve her children’s lives.

  • Amy Rothery

    Amy Rothery, of Nottingham, was nominated by Joanne Piazzi. Amy has been resilient through rough circumstances. Using a network of friends and colleagues, Amy has been able to provide the basic necessities for her three children. In order to give back, she and the children volunteer at the local food bank. Amy advocates for her children at school and supports them in their involvement in ROTC, Cosmetology, sports and the arts, all whiling maintaining a fulltime job.

  • Tammi Stanwood

    Tammi Stanwood, of Rochester, was nominated by Tracy Pond. Tammi is the parent of four daughters, three of whom are adopted.  Through extreme dedication, Tammi ensured that her children received the support and services that they needed through the years. Tammi is active in her community, an inspiration to others and is a wonderful role model to the children she teaches and mentors. Her efforts to educate others on the impact that outside influences play on children and their development is incredible.

  • Shona Sylvia

    Shona Sylvia, of Somersworth, was nominated by Deirdre Siede. 2014 was a challenging year for Shona, as she and her three daughters were left homeless for a period of time, following a series of unfortunate circumstances. During this difficult time, Shona continued to reach out for support and attend beauty school in spite of transportation issues. She has diligently worked with her daughter’s school and the Healthy Families Program to help her children thrive. No longer homeless, Shona is now a proud graduate!

  • Jen Trela

    Jen Trela, of Salem, was nominated by Cindy Jury.  Jen is a single mom who always puts her son’s needs first and even ventured out of her comfort zone to become an active volunteer at Salem Family Resources. Jen is now a veteran class parent, mentor to new parents, fundraising chair and coordinator of special events at the family resource center. She has contributed in a meaningful way to make life better for others and ultimately for her son and herself.

  • Paska Yen

    Paska Yen, of Concord, was nominated by Laurie Hart and Linda Stephenson. Paska came to the United States with her family in 2011 as a refugee from war-torn Sudan. Surviving personal trauma and loss, Paska has guided her children from unimaginable horror to a new future in Concord. Paska has supported her daughters education, advocated for them and supported their opportunities in the community, all while working tirelessly for the state. Paska is working toward becoming a citizen and is proud of her daughters who are now American citizens!

  • Sandy & Wayne Linscott

    Sandy and Wayne Linscott, of Rochester, were nominated by Loni Cohen. Sandy and Wayne recently adopted their six nieces and nephews. During the time of their initial placement, they managed IEP appointments, school suspensions, changing family dynamics, numerous medical appointments and frequent court hearings. They quickly developed a strong support system with school staff, extended family and neighbors. Sandy and Wayne are their children’s strongest advocates and take the time to nurture their own relationship.

    (Could not attend the ceremony)