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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Rachel Engelhardt of Push for the Path

This feature is brought to you by the generosity of the Elgin Symphony Orchestra and its Family Fun Series, which features crafts, activities and music-making for children before the official concert even gets underway. The next concert in the series, on Sunday, April 29, at 2 p.m., is called "Through Sound-Colored Glasses: The Amazing Technicolor Orchestra."

Longtime Go West readers might be familiar with the name Rachel Engelhardt. The Yorkville resident is a member of the Mompreneur Directory (her business is called A Closet of Her Own), and when this site first launched, she graciously allowed me to run a few columns that initially ran on her own blog.

Rachel Engelhardt, a volunteer with Push for the Path, pictured here with her three children. Photo provided.But I so admire the passionate, grassroots nature of the Push for the Path project that Engelhardt is one of the lead organizers for that I just had to feature her as a Go West Mom You Should Know. The multi-use path in question is about 2.7 miles long, but it will link up to many miles of other paths and trails in northern Illinois, and volunteers like Engelhardt hope it could lead to a renaissance for downtown Yorkville.

Engelhardt lives in Yorkville with her husband Mitch -- in her words, "my high school sweetheart who is still my sweetheart" -- and their three children ages 6, 4 and 1. Read on to find out why Engelhardt is our latest Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you tell me about the Push for the Path organization? How did it get started, and what's the ultimate goal?

A. Push for the Path is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization that was created to raise funds to build a 2.72 mile multi-use asphalt path parallel to Kennedy Road in Yorkville, from Route 47 to the existing trail just south of Mill Road in Yorkville.

The United City of Yorkville was awarded a nearly $1.4 million grant from the State of Illinois to fund the project; this is 80% of the cost. The Yorkville aldermen voted to accept the grant only on the condition that the city’s 20% portion of the cost be privately raised. Push for the Path was formed specifically to raise the city’s portion of the cost, which is $357,000; this amount is due in smaller installments over the course of six years.

The ultimate goal is to raise that $357,000 from private donations and fundraising events.  The group was initially formed by some friends and a family member of Darlene McCue, a Bristol resident who lost her life on July 5, 2009, when she was struck by a vehicle while she was bicycling along Kennedy Road with her stepdaughter. The group wants to ensure that a tragedy like this one does not happen again and also honor her memory by raising the funds needed to construct a safe path along Kennedy Road in Yorkville.

Our immediate goal is to raise $100,000 by July 5, 2012, and we are doing this via our “Power of One campaign” in which 100 people, groups, or businesses pledge to raise $1,000 by this date.

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Leslie Lindsay of 'Speaking of Apraxia'

When Leslie Lindsay's daughter was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech five years ago, Lindsay threw herself into learning as much as possible about the neurologically-based motor-speech disorder. Now she's taken that research, as well as information gathered from speech-language pathologists, conferences and a support group, and written "Speaking of Apraxia: A Parent's Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech." It was just published this month.

Leslie Lindsay and her daughter Kate open a box containing Lindsay'snew book, "Speaking of Apraxia: A Parents' Guide to Childhood Apraxiaof Speech."Lindsay, 33, was a former child and adolescent psychiatric nurse at the Mayo Clinic. She's now a stay-at-home mom and writer who lives in the Fox Valley and blogs at leslie4kids. Her husband Jim is a senior researcher at the American Institute for Research; their daughters are Kate, almost 7, and Kelly, 5.

Read on to find out why we think Leslie Lindsay is a Go West Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you tell me about "Speaking of Apraxia"? Why did you decide to write this book? What do you hope it accomplishes?

A. When my daughter Kate was diagnosed with childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) in 2007, I was completely dumbfounded.  Like most, I didn't know what CAS was -- or how to help  my daughter.  I began reading all I could on the disorder and became frustrated, discouraged, and yet wanting more -- as ironic as that seems!  The Internet is great, but you can really drive yourself nuts trying to read and decipher all the "hits" you get on a Google search.

I checked out really old-school speech pathology books from university libraries, attended conferences, interviewed SLPs (speech-language pathologists), facilitated my own apraxia group, "Small Talk: All AboutApraxia" consisting of parents of children with CAS.  I wanted to connect with others and help them on theirapraxia journey. Apraxia can be such an isolating diagnosis because not many kids have it.  As a parent, you are just sort of stumbling along.  The book is divided into five sections, which sort of mimic that of the five weeks my group met: 

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Beth Feller of the Batavia Mothers' Club Foundation

Beth Feller joined the Batavia Mothers' Club Foundation as a way to make new friends in the area and to become more involved in the community. Just four years later, she became the president of the non-profit philanthropic group, which is hosting a "New Member Open House" on Thursday, Feb. 2, at 6:30 p.m.

Beth Feller, pictured here with her husband Brad Feller, is our latest "Go West Mom You Should Know" for her work as president of the Batavia Mothers' Club Foundation. Photo provided.Feller, 33, is a stay-at-home mom, and her husband Brad Feller works in business development at Monitor Liability Managers. They live in Batavia with their three sons: Nathan, who is 6 1/2 years old; Jake, 4 1/2 years old; and Luke, 9 months, as well as their "furry child" Maddie, an 8-year-old Vizsla. 

Read on to find out why we think Beth Feller is a "Go West Mom You Should Know" as well as more information about how you can help support or become a member of the Batavia Mothers' Club Foundation.

Q. How did you first get involved with the Batavia Mothers' Club? Can you tell me a bit about the foundation and what you like most about it?

A. I joined Batavia Mothers' Club Foundation (BMCF) in October 2007 after I had my second child.  I had heard about the BMCF when I first moved to Batavia and thought it would be a great way to meet new people and get involved in the community. BMCF is a non-profit, 501c3 organization that has been around for over 75 years. The mission of the BMCF is to improve the lives of women, children and families in the Fox Valley area.  The money we raise throughout the year is disbursed back into the community to other local nonprofit groups, Batavia schools and other educational opportunities. We usually disburse anywhere from $20,000-$30,000 each year. 

The funds are raised by our annual Arts and Craft Show in October, our annual Fox Trot 5K in April, and other smaller events. What I like most about the BMCF is the wonderful balance of philanthropy and social activities.  This club has given me the chance to be an active and supportive member of my community while working with a wonderful group of women, who are all experiencing similar joys and challenges of being a mom.

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Jackie Olson of Haley's Playground

Our latest Go West Mom You Should Know is Jackie Olson of North Aurora. Olson, 42, is an occupational therapist with three sons. She also has a 6-year-old daughter with autism who is the inspiration for “Haley’s Playground Inc.” It’s an organization that provides sensory and motor stimulation classes for children and young adults with disabilities and seeks to improve their quality of life through play, exercise and health education while interacting with friends, families and peers.

Jackie Olson with her 6-year-old daughter Haley. Photo provided.There will be an open house at Haley’s Playground this Sunday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the North Aurora Activity Center, located at 1 North Lincolnway. If you’d like to attend, or have questions beyond what you can gather below, please email Olson at jolson@haleysplayground.com.

Read on to find out why we think Olson is a Mom You Should Know.

Q. Can you tell me more about Haley’s Playground – exactly who the organization is aimed at and how it operates?

A. Haley’s Playground Inc. is a non-for-profit 501c3 charitable organization established in April 2011. Our mission is to provide a safe healthy environment for individuals with physical, cognitive, and social disabilities; to improve their quality of life and meet their significant needs through play, exercise, sensory activities, training, mentoring and education for success while interacting and providing education to their families, friends, peers, and members in our community. We service ages 2-30 years.  It is an organization of individuals who volunteer their time and talents to give back in our community. Starting in 2012, we offer respite and tutoring services.

Q. What inspired you to open Haley's Playground? 

A. Kids with disabilities need a place to go where they are accepted and their families are accepted.  A place they can learn and grow to play with others.  A place where they can have fun and be with peers who accept them. A place to call their own.  A place where they can learn social skills, play skills, and practice making good choices.

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A Go West Mom You Should Know: Shannon Sue Guernsey (Part 2)

Last week, writer Shannon Guernsey -- our latest "Go West Mom You Should Know" -- told us about her new business, Planet Fassa, an online resource that rewards children for offline play. This week, Guernsey answers our questions about her life as a stepmother to three children who she says "have completely filled my heart." Using her nicknames for them, her stepkids are MB (aka Miss-Behavin), age 14 but "going on 22"; Chameleon ("all shades of pink"), age 12; and the 8-year-old Lil Dude.

Q. From what I read about you in a bio, you were a single career woman who suddenly fell in love with a man with three children. Can you talk about that experience? It must have been quite a jarring transition to become a stepmother to three kids!

Shannon Guernsey with her stepchildren and husband Lee Coulter, celebrating St. Patrick's Day.A. It really was crazy! Lee and I dated for quite some time before I met the kids as we figured they’d been through enough heartbreak to meet me if I wasn’t in for the long haul. However, no matter how long the prep is, I don’t think you can ever fully know what to expect from the big introduction, or how it is going to completely change your life. I’ll never forget the day we met. I can honestly say it was the last day my needs came first, or that I cared if they did. Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way a saint and I can be quite selfish, but before I met MB, Cham, and Lil Dude, I thought life was busy and fulfilling. What was I thinking? Until you have kids in your life, you hear people saying, “Parenting is the toughest job in the world,” and you think, “Yeah? Try MY career! I’m here 14 hours a day…” Um, WRONG. Kids are there 24 hours a day … the moment they hit your heart, it’s over. You’re either with them, or thinking about them! It is exhausting, but it is also really amazing. I fell HARD for my three stepkids, mostly because all three of them remind me in some way of their father, who is the love of my life.  

Q. Would you have any advice for a woman who is going to become a stepmother, or thinking about marrying a man with children from an earlier relationship? What has surprised you about that role?

A. I guess the first thing I’d say is make sure to always love your partner and remember why you fell in love in the first place – no matter what. Without a strong foundation, the issues of a blended family can take you down. Because (don’t take this lightly): this is tough.

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