United Angels Foundation
Supporting families of special needs children.
When Mark and Amber Leck’s first child Aubrey was born in 2006, they were only 24 and 23 years old respectively. Though routine prenatal testing showed no issues, Aubrey was born with Down syndrome. To say the Lecks were shocked would be an understatement. Mark says he felt as if someone put a 150-pound backpack on him and asked him to keep standing.
Amber was equally distraught, especially in the days immediately following Aubrey’s birth when doctors and specialists in the neonatal intensive care unit recounted all the things their daughter might never be able to do.
Angels Among Us
Then a nurse named Kathy Credille entered Aubrey’s hospital room. She told the Lecks that she’d heard about their situation and wanted to speak with them — she too had a daughter with Down syndrome. Mark recalls her saying, “Look, I know what you’re going through but I would be lying if I said I felt sorry for you. You guys have just won the lottery, and you don’t know it yet.”
“We sure didn’t feel like we’d won the lottery,” Mark says, “but she was so direct and confident that we couldn’t help but think, ‘What does she know that we don’t?’” It turned out that Credille answered the Lecks’ questions about raising a child with Down syndrome far better than doctors, geneticists and other specialists.
“Talking to her made us do a 180 in terms of our attitude,” Mark says. “It was a paradigm shift. We walked away with wonderful advice and feeling very encouraged. It’s hard to overstate what a positive impact that meeting with Kathy had on us.”
Over the next year, the Lecks began to connect with special needs groups in their area and realized that almost nobody had met their own “Kathy.” They recognized the connection they’d made with her — someone who had walked in their shoes — immediately following Aubrey’s diagnosis was rare and that most people suffered the news of a diagnosis alone, something that could be extremely challenging.
That realization led to the creation of the United Angels Foundation in 2007, a nonprofit aimed at supporting parents and families of individuals with special needs. United Angels offers parents dealing with a new diagnosis a way to meet other parents of kids with the same, or a similar, condition. From there, the organization also provides regular opportunities for interaction, education and other support, all with the goal of transforming overwhelmed and scared parents into empowered and confident ones.
Walking With Angels
Today, Aubrey is a thriving 9-year-old, and United Angels is serving 1,000 families across the Wasatch Front. Its biggest fundraising event each year is the “Walk With Angels” event complete with bounce houses, petting zoo, musical entertainment, food and more. This year’s Walk With Angels is June 4 at 9:30 a.m. at Wines Park, 100 E. 600 North in Lehi. Families with special needs children will likely find exactly what the Lecks set out to provide with their foundation — a comfortable atmosphere full of old and new friends who have a special understanding of their situation.
Funds raised go to support hospital and home visits by United Angels’ 15-20 volunteers, parent lunches, group activities and seminars. Mark says every donor dollar goes directly toward supporting children and their families. “We don’t take a salary or pay our board of directors, so we leverage our donations very efficiently.”
Donate, volunteer or register for United Angels services at unitedangels.org.