The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Bonnie Backing

“There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.”
– Mandy Hale, “The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass”

The Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer I would like to introduce you to is one of those “someones.” Bonnie Backing is a current group leader and speaker. Her first experience with the program was as a new mom when she joined a parent group with her firstborn, Maggie. Bonnie is now the proud mom of three girls: Maggie (now 4), Paige (2) and Anna (1). She and her husband Daniel are raising their trio in Troy, where Bonnie is a stay-at-home mom.

Before Bonnie was making life beautiful for her girls and the families in her groups, she was doing so for the students she taught. Shortly after her college graduation, Bonnie spent three years teaching in the Philippines. When she came home, Bonnie undertook the challenging role of special education teacher, a position she held until she decided to make little Maggie her sole student. Now Bonnie is back to teaching a larger audience as she shares her knowledge and expertise as a group speaker on the topics of Play, Learning and Reading, and Development and Temperament. She has also led two groups full of families who benefitted from her care and concern in each meeting. The BPP is not the sole recipient of Bonnie’s volunteer efforts; she is also a volunteer at her church where she acts as a buddy for a student with autism.

When Bonnie is not volunteering, and isn’t busy with her three kids (that’s probably about 90 seconds per day), she enjoys making Shutterfly books, camping, being active within her church, and reading. Her favorite book is “The Blue Sword” by Robin McKinley, and while her list of favorite children’s books is too long to share, some of them are:” The Gruffalo” by Julia Donaldson, “Dandelion” by Don Freeman, “Alice the Fairy” by David Shannon, “The Cat in the Hat” by Dr. Seuss, and “Bubble Trouble” by Margaret Mahy. Bonnie clearly practices what she preaches when she speaks on Play Learning and Reading for parent groups! She even organized a book exchange for the last meeting. Bonnie is passing her love of books down to the next generation; her daughter Paige’s favorite thing about her mom is when they read together. Maggie’s favorite thing is also spending time with her mom but she prefers TV time together.

Like many who enjoy their time in their Beaumont Parent Group as new parents, the experience is what led Bonnie to become a volunteer for the program. Her favorite thing about being a BPP volunteer is meeting the new parents and their babies. Her advice to new parents? “You’re not alone. Find other parents who have gone through what you’re going through and can tell you how normal your struggles are.” Bonnie is able to be that parent in her dual roles as a Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer: making life beautiful for the families she sees, and for the staff as well!

– Nicole Capozello, Beaumont Parenting Program Staff

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Lindsey Belden

Lindsey Belden with her husband, Todd

Name a hearing screener volunteer who once worked as a pastry chef, but who is now turning her love of food and science into a new career. Did you answer this trivia question with “Lindsey Belden?” If not, let me introduce you to a Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer who is enthusiastic, energetic and caring in her role, and in her life. And I can tell you, there is nothing trivial about her contributions to the Program.

Lindsey has travelled a winding road along her career path. Her original course of study was in Linguistics – with an eye toward working in publishing. After completing an internship in that field, she decided it wasn’t her calling and switched to culinary school. Despite loving to bake, Lindsey found the role of pastry chef was too repetitive and decided to keep her culinary arts personal rather than professional. That is when Lindsey decided to pursue a course of study in dietetics. When she completes her coursework and internship in April 2020, Lindsey plans to sit for the national dietitian exam and focus on either diabetes education or neonate nutrition.

In support of her goals, Lindsey is a volunteer hearing screener with the BPP. This role gives her the opportunity to gain experience working with patients. Lindsey is also a trainer in her hearing screener role, teaching new volunteers the ropes. When she’s not needed as a hearing screener, Lindsey lends a hand in the Parenting Program office, helping with paperwork and processing. She brings a positive attitude and a bright smile with her every day we get the pleasure of her company and assistance.

Lindsey lives in Ferndale with her husband Todd and their dog and two cats. She and Todd married in 2017, after having met playing bar trivia – an activity they still enjoy. They honeymooned in Europe, and Lindsey recommends visiting Salzburg, where she first tried orange wine. She and Todd also saw a gazebo used in the filming of the “The Sound of Music”. She also enjoyed Paris, France, and the little town of Hallstatt in Austria. She hopes to make their next big trip be to Costa Rica, where she wants to spend some time volunteering at a dog rescue, and visiting coffee and chocolate farms. In the meantime, she is looking forward to her extended family’s yearly trip to Frankfort this summer.

In her spare time, in addition to travelling and playing bar trivia, Lindsey likes to read, garden and play with her animals. Her favorite authors include Margaret Atwood, Aimee Bender and Zadie Smith. Fun Fact: Lindsey was born at Beaumont Hospital, and has seen her pediatrician while making her volunteer rounds.

So name a Beaumont Parenting Program volunteer who brightens up the Parenting office, lightens the load for parents concerned about their child’s hearing test, and frightens the other teams at bar trivia night. Now we all know the answer to that one: Lindsey Belden.

– Nicole Capozello, Beaumont Parenting Program Staff

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Denise Duncan

Sometimes we start a journey without knowing where it will lead us. Denise Duncan decided that she wanted to “give back,” only knowing that she planned to start volunteering at a hospital familiar to her, and that she wanted to work with babies. That decision brought Denise to the Beaumont Parenting Program for an interview to become a BPP volunteer. That road has since led Denise to become a seven-year (so far) volunteer for the program who has served in three different roles: group leader, hearing screener, and hospital visitor. Her journey has brought continuing friendships with both staff and participants, and it’s brought the program another inspiring volunteer.

Denise is retired and previously worked as an administrator at the First of Michigan brokerage firm. She currently resides in Grosse Pointe Woods with her husband, Bruce. They raised two sons, Alexander, 30, who lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Trevor, 25, who lives in Arlington, Virginia. In addition to volunteering for the BPP, Denise enjoys reading, knitting, drawing, redecorating her home, skiing, and travelling with her husband – especially when it lets her spend time with their boys. When asked for her favorite book, Denise responded “whatever she is currently reading,” but recommends “The Secret Garden” by Francis Hodgson Burnett and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown for children.

Denise is very much a family woman. She spends her time helping new parents learn and grow as they build their budding families. She enjoys her time spent with the BPP participants, and wishes that she could’ve been involved in the program when she was a new mother. She keeps in touch with families who were in groups she has led, and proudly shares that the kids in her first group have started kindergarten (where did the time go?!). Of course, Denise’s commitment to Beaumont families reflects her commitment to her own family. She describes her husband Bruce as her hero, saying that he makes her a better person. Her sons said that their favorite things about their mom are that she encouraged them to do the things they love, and that she gave them the freedom to be themselves.

I asked Denise what advice she would offer to new parents; she would encourage them to enjoy all the moments, and to listen to their kids. Not just when they were having conversations – but when they were hanging out with friends, or even talking to themselves. She also encourages parents to look for the moments when they could be their kids’ friends, and when they need to be their parents. To us all, she says, “Sing as though no one is listening, Dance as though no one is watching, Love as though you’ve never been hurt, Live as though it were heaven on earth!” We are watching though, Denise, and we love the way you’ve danced through the journey that has made you such an asset to the Parenting Program and its families!

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

The Face of Beaumont Parenting: Laurie O’Meara

Laurie with her husband and son

Laurie with her husband, Dennis, and son Michael.

What do you do when you feel like you owe the lives of your children to the medical staff of Beaumont hospital? Give back to the hospital by helping other Beaumont families, of course! Laurie O’Meara had her boys after two difficult deliveries when she was 37 and 39 years old respectively. Her first-born, Michael, was born via cesarean section, a procedure the doctor chose because Michael’s umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck. Laurie’s second born, Matthew, was born two years later via emergency C-section and suffered a lack of oxygen at birth. Although that lack of oxygen led to cognitive difficulties for Matthew, and although his family lost him in 2008 at the age of 16, Laurie credits the lives of her sons to the efforts of her Beaumont doctors.

Laurie O’Meara is a retired teacher and bookkeeper who lives in Roseville with her husband Dennis. Before retirement, Laurie also worked in retail and in community education. She serves the Beaumont Parenting Program by providing clerical help in the Royal Oak office. This is a role she has served in for two years. Laurie also previously volunteered for the BPP (2006–2008) as a group leader and NICU volunteer. In addition to her work for the BPP, Laurie volunteers on the Roseville Planning Commission. She enjoys traveling to visit family and friends in Michigan, Ohio and Canada. Her favorite book is “The Leisure Seeker” by Michael Zadoorian (which was made into a movie starring Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren). Her favorite children’s book is “Stellaluna” by Janell Cannon. Her favorite song lyric is “some days are diamond, some days are stone” from the John Denver song “Some Days are Diamonds.” Laurie’s son Michael says that his favorite thing about his mom is that she “introduced him to advocacy at an early age through testifying at public hearings, writing to legislators, getting to know our local officials, bringing him to conventions.”

With all of Laurie’s life experience, she has a great deal to give to the BPP community. She advises parents to take the advice of well-meaning friends and family with a grain of salt: “Smile and nod and say thank you, then decide how you want to do things!” She has learned that “even through all the changes in technology, medicine, and child-rearing fads since [her] boys were born, going with your own instinct about your own baby still works best.” Laurie enjoys sharing her time and talents with the BPP; volunteering for the program was on her retirement bucket list. Laurie also enjoys running into her former doctors in the halls of the hospital. As the BPP staff can attest, and we’re sure the Beaumont doctors and families agree, that one of those encounters with Laurie makes a day that might otherwise be a stone shine like a diamond.

– Nicole Capozello, Parenting Program staff

The face of Beaumont Parenting: Lori Irwin

family in front of rocks and waterfalls

Lori Irwin (second from right) enjoys some family time.

Lori Irwin is involved in multiple aspects of the Beaumont Parenting Program. She is a hospital visitor at both the Troy and Royal Oak locations, a “big sister” to new group leaders, a contributor to the BPP blog, as well as a Play, Learning and Reading speaker. She also just started leading her second parent group. Reading that résumé, you would assume that Lori has been with the program for many years, but she mastered all of these service roles in under two years with the program!

For about 36 years, Lori Irwin was a special education educator. She was also a consultant with a book publisher, and is currently a teacher coach. She dedicates her life to helping and bettering people, and you can tell that she is passionate about it, which makes her a natural fit for the BPP. Lori’s favorite quote is from Mark Twain: “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see.” With just one or two conversations with her, you can tell that she embodies what she believes, and that it helps make her a great addition to the Parenting Program.

Lori is a mom of two grown kids, Jeffery (34) and Kaitlyn (31). When asked what the best thing was about their mom, their responses showed just how much Lori impacts the people around her every day, and how dedicated she is to what she does and who she interacts with. Jeffery wrote to her, “There are many favorite parts about you, but the one that comes to mind first is selflessness. The way you put the people that you care about or who you’re trying to help above your needs to make sure they get the attention they require. The way you would drop what you are doing or change your schedule to always be there for the ones you love. Growing up, and even now, I have always felt that you are there for me and will help in any way you can, be it support, love or needs. You always make people feel like you’re their number one fan.” Kaitlyn shared, “My mother is the most gentle and compassionate woman. It is her selfless nature, big heart and smile on her face which makes her a burst of sunshine wherever she is. The stamp she leaves on hearts is permanent and unforgettable; from her days as a special education teacher to the volunteer work that she does in the community, she touches and influences the lives of people everywhere. She is truly the most special person in the world.” Just by reading these views from her children, you can see exactly how Lori is, and know that she always has everybody’s best interests at heart.

When Lori first decided that she wanted to become a volunteer after retiring, she came to the Beaumont Parenting Program hoping to spend her time rocking babies. She was disappointed to learn that “Baby Rocker” is not a volunteer role in the Beaumont Health System. However, when she met the staff of the BPP, she immediately knew that this was a place that she would fit in and be able to use her many talents from her years of being a teacher. She says that the staff are professional, helpful, knowledgeable and fun. The combination of staff support and volunteer roles make volunteering for the BPP satisfying for Lori, and a time that she looks forward to.

Working in the program, Lori learned from all the knowledgeable speakers that there are countless different ways to do things. Everyone wants to raise their baby to be a happy, healthy, and productive person, and there are many paths to that destination. Lori’s advice is that it is OK to spoil your child with all of the love and attention that you can give. The days may go slow, but the years go fast.

 Alyssa Carnagie is a human resources intern with the Beaumont Parenting Program.