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'IT'S GOLD' | Rockford farm hosts conversation for parents of neuro-diverse children

The community conversation is designed to give parents access to resources and support that they need in their journeys.

ROCKFORD, Mich. — On a pleasant Tuesday evening, Christine O'Driscoll is organizing chairs inside the market at the New Growth Project, a non-profit farm that she co-founded. But as busy as she is, she's happy to take a break to tell you about her daughter.

"Meghan is a beautiful soul. She's a kind heart. She wants to connect with others. She is great behind our counter as a cashier because she gives everyone a compliment," O'Driscoll said.

As O'Driscoll continues to prepare, she's greeted by a familiar face — that of Amy Wiersma. She's also happy to talk about her daughter.

"Aubrey is just the sweetest, most gentle character that you'd ever want to meet. She is quite musical. She loves music," Wiersma said.

These two Kent County mothers share a bond not too many parents are able to share. O'Driscoll and Wiersma's daughters have both been diagnosed with 22Q Deletion Syndrome.

"It is the deletion of genetic material on the 22nd chromosome and it causes a host of difficulties for the children — physical symptoms, mental symptoms, emotional symptoms," Wiersma said.

The two mothers met on Facebook and being able to share stories has been valuable in their journeys as parents and caregivers.

"To me, someone that has a similar experience, you can't put into words. It's gold. Because it's hard. It's a lonely road. There's a lot of obstacles," O'Driscoll said.

O'Driscoll wants to share some of that "gold" with other area parents. That's why she hosted the first in a series of community conversations at the New Growth Project on Tuesday night. Around a dozen people showed up to support each other and to hear about resources available to them like Homes Giving Hope and Goodwill Industries.

"That is our goal tonight at community conversations — to build that community so that other parents and support providers just don't feel so alone and can discover the wonderful resources that we have here right in West Michigan," O'Driscoll said.

There will be more community conversations in the future. There is not another one scheduled at this time, but O'Driscoll says following New Growth Project's website and Facebook page is the best way to find out when one will be happening.


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