(WAFB) - I think parents of special needs children are a gift to all of us. Their dedication, patience, love, and sacrifices they make every moment of every day a lesson to us all on how a life of service should be lived.
Care for a special needs person is not a part-time job. Special needs individuals need care 24/7, so when a parent of a special needs child gets a little help, wow. What a blessing it is.
Enter Mary Ballard, the mother of a fantastically charismatic young man named Christopher.
Christopher is a Special Olympian who enjoys powerlifting. One day at the gym, Lisa Ordes, who was there allowing her wheelchair-bound daughter to swim, met Mary and began talking. One thing led to another and Lisa discovered just how giving Mary's heart was.
"Watching her these last couple of years, seeing her servants heart is the best way I know to put it, just how much she loves all of our kids." Lisa told me, describing Mary.
In fact, Mary loves these kids so much that she single-handedly organized and manages training in powerlifting, swimming, track & field, baseball, basketball, and bowling for all special needs young men and women in our area. When others saw Mary's passion with these young athletes, they began to volunteer their time and gifts through coaching different teams to financial contributions for equipment and competition.
Mary's teams compete in the statewide Special Olympics held at Southeastern University in Hammond each May.
"I would say it's her passion," Lisa continued telling me why she nominated Mary for Hand It On. "I mean, she's a very godly woman. Very rarely ever see a frown on her face. She's always smiling, and I think it's just, that's what God needed her to do. He needed her to be out here and help those of us with younger kids."
So we met up with Mary at one of the two weekly powerlifting practices held at an individual's home in Denham Springs. Then, Lisa's daughter, Kayla, and Lisa surprised Mary with our Hand It On recognition.
"OK, so we kinda' pulled the wool over your eyes a little bit," Mary began as she and Kayla approached an unsuspecting Mary during practice. "Several of us feel so very strongly about how much we love you and how much we appreciate everything you do for these kids, so we are handing it on to you," Lisa continued as Kayla gave Mary three new one hundred dollar bills. "And that is for you to do whatever you want with."
Mary gratefully accepted the money. She said she was going to put it into a petty cash account to help offset expenses to send athletes to the State Special Olympics in May.
Then, turning to Kayla, Mary said, "You know what makes me even happier than this? Seeing you standing. 'Cause I don't think I've ever been able to see that."
To nominate someone for Hand It On, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com. Make sure we have your contact information, especially your phone number.