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Purina and the United Way – Helping Those Close to Home

My first year at Nestlé Purina, I signed up to be my floor’s ambassador for the United Way campaign. It was a great opportunity to meet people in all areas of the company, take some awesome field trips to partner agencies, and learn all about the generosity of Nestlé Purina and the United Way. I had no idea how profoundly the United Way would impact my life until about 10 years later. When I needed help.

When you envision your life as a parent, rarely (if ever) does that dream anticipate the challenges your child may face. Will they have special needs? Will they go to a typical school and have friends? Will they ever drive, live independently, or hold a job? Would we be able to afford to give a special needs child everything the world has to offer?

If you ever have to ask yourself that set of questions, it can be a painful, emotional, gut-wrenching, tear-out-your-heart roller coaster. BUT, the process can also be one of finding clarity, self-discovery, triumph and JOY. My son Evan's atypical journey from the age of six months had been like a game of Go Fish. Countless doctors, therapists, teachers, schools and random old ladies at the grocery store...EVERYONE had an opinion on what was going on with my baby, but none of them could agree. Every last opinion and guess was like a knife in my heart. I knew whatever he was dealing with, I could handle it, but I wasn’t so sure about the rest of the world.

Finally at age four, two doctors agreed. AUTISM. What did that word even mean? The real change for my family in having a diagnosis was all of the amazing services that Evan was entitled to. However, the greatest gift of help came from the United Way. With testing, specialists, and therapists often not taking insurance, I was constantly asking, "How much does this cost?" No parent EVER wants to ask that question in trying to give their child the best care possible, but after thousands of dollars out of pocket each year, it became a reality. When United Way partner agencies tell us “there is no cost," that answer never ceases to touch my heart. I never get used to the idea that people just like you have given your hard-earned money to help complete strangers.

My family has benefited directly from a variety of services from the United Way. Evan deserves every little bit of expertise we can squeeze out to make his life as wonderful as he deserves. What also has really surprised me is the support for us as a family through United Way agencies.

A huge breakthrough came in the form of Easter Seals Parent Training. My husband and I attended an 80-hour intensive course to teach us about Autism. They trained us in behavioral therapy for Evan, while also addressing the impact of raising a child with Autism on the marriage, on the siblings, on the grandparents and on the extended family. We met adults with Autism, other children with Autism, and several experts from different fields to support us in raising Evan.

Blessedly, we didn’t have to think about how we would come up with the money for that invaluable training. Our hearts have been touched and our lives enriched immeasurably by the United Way, and it is priceless!

Nestlé Purina is committed to enriching the lives of pets, and the people who love them. Our dedication to the United Way holds that second part true. Nestlé Purina has supported “the people who love them” through the United Way for more than 50 years, raising $1.2 million in our most recent campaign. My co-workers may think of the United Way for those less fortunate, those in crisis, or for those that are helpless. It is absolutely all of those things. But their generosity helps those closer than they realize…they’re helping those in the cube right next to them!

 

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