“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead. I started Inspire Iowa’s Future to honor the legacy of my late wife, Jen. She was a teacher and her passion was helping today's children become tomorrow's leaders. Whether it's a sports team, school club, band or neighborhood friends, all groups have one thing in common – they're looking for individuals to step up. Inspire Iowa's Future will give parents, coaches, teachers and mentors the tools to grow tomorrow's leaders, while arming our children with the power to change the world.
My son Cory, a special needs young adult, is my biggest source of inspiration. I constantly hear unsolicited feedback from both friends and complete strangers about how he’s touched their lives, made them smile and turned their day around. If one person is capable of making such an impact, imagine what we can accomplish together! Cory’s spirit and my love for the Garcia family have fueled my involvement in Inspire Iowa’s Future. Central Iowa has offered me everything I could hope for in life. So, I’ve tried to give back to the community by serving organizations like Kiwanis Miracle league, West Des Moines Leadership Academy, West Des Moines Community Schools Foundation and 100 Men on a Mission.
My two sons inspire me every day, each for different reasons. Kellen moved to LA to pursue his lifelong dream of comedy writing and standup. He reminds me that anything is possible if you set your heart and mind to it. And my other son, Cory, has never let special needs slow him down. One of my favorite Cory stories is when he was only 10 years old. He openly welcomed a complete stranger to our church with one simple, yet powerful greeting – “Welcome to Hope.” The man, who had been looking for a new church, said he knew in that instant he had found his new home. Inspire Iowa’s Future was started by an incredible family setting out on an incredible mission, and I’m honored for the opportunity to help make an impact in the lives of tomorrow’s leaders.
Like thousands of others, I was inspired by Jen Garcia’s story during the 2016 Little League World Series. But I had an up-close perspective that allowed me to see her unwavering strength and love for her family. Our sons played together on that once-in-a-lifetime Johnston team. As a nurse, I was able to help her with minor medical needs while we were in Williamsport. Serving in Inspire Iowa’s Future allows me to continue to truly honor Jen and make a difference to those who need it most, all in a community I love. This Maya Angelou quote has become my mantra in both my personal and professional lives: “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”
I love Iowa. I love the people of Iowa. And I love helping others. That’s why I’m so honored and passionate to serve on the board of Inspire Iowa’s Future. The grassroots organization is making our children’s lives better, which will ultimately make our community, our state and our world better. I’m inspired every day by those who help the less fortunate. And that spirit has driven me to volunteer with ChildVoice International, a non-profit group that supports children who’ve been impacted by the war in Uganda. I was fortunate enough to recently travel to Uganda and walk alongside young girls who’ve experienced more horrors than anyone could imagine. Despite what they’ve been through, their sheer joy and faith in the face of adversity is awe-inspiring.
Jen Garcia wasn’t just my sister-in-law, she was a great friend. The way she led by example, both prior to and during her battle with cancer, inspired me to be a better mom, wife and friend. She taught me to never take one day for granted. One of the many amazing people I met during Jen’s journey was Dr. Richard Deming, whose passion in life is to serve patients and their families through his foundation, Above and Beyond Cancer. The compassion he displayed for our family – like responding to texts at any and all hours of the day – was uplifting. If I can bring even a fraction of his energy and spirit to Inspiring Iowa’s Future, I know we can make a huge difference in the lives of Iowa’s youth.
I’ve always had a passion for helping others, especially children. That’s led me to serving in organizations like Mommy & Me Music and the MOPS Leadership Team at Lutheran Church of Hope. Jen and the entire Garcia family have inspired me to carry on her legacy by helping today’s youth become tomorrow’s leaders. I’m in awe of those who overcome obstacles like addictions and diseases to live the best life they can. My favorite part about Iowa is the people, and through Inspire Iowa’s Future, I hope my family and I can help make our community even better for the next generation.
Anyone who knows the Garcia family knows they put helping others before all else. And I’m excited to be a part of anything that inspires them! I’ve served on the ALS Association board in the past, but as a mother of two teenagers, Inspire Iowa’s Future hits close to home. I truly believe that my time spent helping this organization can create amazing opportunities for Iowa families and communities. My late mother was, and always will be, my biggest inspiration. She showed me how to live life to its fullest by being myself, loving myself and others, and by giving grace. I see these same characteristics in so many Iowans. That’s how I know we can make a huge difference in young peoples’ lives.
Originally from North Carolina, my family and I have planted roots in Des Moines where we get to provide local ownership of a meaningful brand with Chick-fil-A. My passion in life has always been “to help others get to the next level.” As iron sharpens iron, so does one sharpen another. I am honored to serve with this incredible team because I personally connected with the Garcia family during Jen’s passing. Just like JT and Emma, I too lost a parent at a young age. The vision of Inspire Iowa’s Future allows me the opportunity to make a difference and invest in our future leaders.