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Meet our Nanny Angel of the Year 2015: Leigh Scholl

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Angels like Leigh are what set the Nanny Angel Network apart. NAN provides so much more than just childcare, our Angels are passionate and highly educated caregivers who go above and beyond to support families, and create a safe space where kids can just be kids.

Leigh has worked and volunteered with children since she was ten years old. Babysitting jobs evolved into volunteer positions with a local church classroom which turned into working at the ER of her local children’s hospital. Along with a background in education, Leigh received a BA in psychology, and a BScN. She’s currently a nurse in the Child & Family Program at VHA Home Health Care.

Leigh first discovered the Nanny Angel Network in 2014. Her three passions are healthcare, children, and volunteering so NAN could not have been a more perfect fit. She applied immediately, and was accepted and placed with a family.

A typical visit with her family begins with NAN’s famous Green Bag, filled with toys and games from the closet at the Nanny Angel Network head office. Leigh visits with a three-year-old boy and a five-year-old girl, who loves crafts. Leigh likes to plan seasonal crafts to get the kids excited for holidays. Often times the kids will initiate medical play, where Leigh acts as the patient while the kids pretend to be doctors. Leigh explained “If they want to talk about cancer they know that I’m a safe person to talk to, but I never push them to talk about it.”

When asked about her role as a Nanny Angel, Leigh shared the responsibility she feels to ensure the children are made to feel safe, and have fun. “I support the kids on their terrifying roller coaster ride, offering answers when I can, and being a comforting presence the rest of the time.” While some days as a Nanny Angel can be difficult, it can also be incredibly rewarding, Leigh explains.

“I think the best experience would have to have been when my then 2-year-old looked up at me with big brown puppy-dog eyes and said to me, ‘I wuv you in my heart.’ That got me right in the feels!”

In an interview with the mother of the children Leigh visits, the mother shared the impact Leigh has had on her children. “Leigh, when she was younger, she would say “goodnight, sleepy angel” to her sisters growing up, and she does that with my kids, and so they say it to her. They don’t say it to us – they only say it to her! If she doesn’t say if first, then they’ll make a point of saying it and she has to say it back. So it’s really nice to see that they have their own thing together.” Having Leigh visit also provided the mother with some much needed time to rest. “When I was at work, it was nice to have one night where I could come home and not parent – and just sleep.”

NAN was excited to name Leigh our 2015 Nanny Angel of the Year for all of her hard work, passion, and dedication. She was presented with one of our Angel Wing Necklaces by NAN Board member Joyce Frustaglio on June 23rd. Thank you so much Leigh, for everything that you do for NAN and for mothers with cancer in your community.

The Nanny Angel Network could not be possible without people like Leigh volunteering their time out of their very busy schedules to provide the specialized care the children of mothers affected with cancer need. The Nanny Angels support the children’s development and provide a safe environment for discussion so that the children do not feel the need to suppress the numerous emotions they feel under the circumstances. Nanny Angels build relationships with their clients and genuinely care about their well-being. The kind of support they offer is extremely hard to find in the childcare market today, much less offered at no cost. This ensures that mother is not left without help when she is going through such a difficult time.

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Text: Mia Shulman      Photos: Omar Duragos, Nanny Angel Network

A Dad’s Story: Pawan

Father’s Day is bittersweet for many of our Nanny Angel Families. Fathers often carry a tremendous burden when their partner becomes ill. We would like to celebrate the important role father’s play in helping moms during the difficult time of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. For all of the fathers who find themselves in a situation that they could never have imagined, we acknowledge that you are often the glue that keeps your family together. You deserve this special day.

For some dads, this may be the first Father’s Day that they are celebrating without their children’s mom. One such dad is Pawan Sharma. When Pawan and his wife were introduced to the Nanny Angel Network, it was just after Pawan’s wife had been diagnosed with cancer while pregnant with their second daughter. The Nanny Angel Network was able to support Pawan and his family through his wife’s treatment and after she passed. The Sharma family holds a special place in the heart of the Nanny Angel Network family, and we’re so thankful that Pawan agreed to share his story.

The Nanny Angel Network came into my life as its name reflects, like an angel, like hope. It’s not easy to know your loved one is in pain and is going through so much. I’ll never forget the night I was waiting outside the operation theater, praying for two lives, my wife’s and our unborn daughter’s, to come through safely. You can’t even imagine that moment. It was so heavy for me and I felt helpless.  After my wife was diagnosed with cancer while pregnant, my role as a husband and as a father totally changed. On one side I had my wife, who was fighting for her life and whom I promised before marriage that I would be there for, in her happiness and her sorrow, and on the other side, I had my little angel who was born premature. I was on an emotional roller coaster but I gathered my courage and cared for my wife until the last moment of her life.

I can’t even express my gratitude and thanks to the Nanny Angel Network. NAN provided moral support to my family and a financial gift when Audrey Guth was selected as part of TD Canada Trust’s Make Today Matter campaign. The Nanny Angels assured my wife that everything would be okay and my wife was able to take satisfaction from knowing that our kids were in good hands.

When my wife passed away, I was very down emotionally. Returning to work a couple weeks later seemed like a new challenge, I was scared and unsure of what would happen. When Audrey called and told me that she would stand beside me, I felt secure. She kept her promise and I returned to my job with no worries.

Michelle, our Nanny Angel, stepped in and cared for my kids as a mother would. She gave love, affection, and support to my kids when they needed that support the most and she even provided help for my mother, who was living with me and my daughters.

She came to my house everyday and gave a bath to the kids, fed them, read stories and allowed my mom to take breaks and relax. At that time my older daughter missed her mother a lot, and was experiencing many emotional difficulties. Life was not normal anymore, but our Nanny Angel supported us and became our savior.

My younger daughter knows nothing regarding our situation; she is still too young to understand what happened, but my older daughter went through a very emotional phase. She visited the hospital many times to see her mother before she passed, and asked so many questions. “Why is mom not coming home? When is she coming back?” After my wife’s death, she went through the grief phase, just like us. It’s so hard to even think of now, I am just so thankful to God that NAN came into our lives.

The Nanny Angels touched our lives and I hope and pray that they will touch many more in the future.

Pawan’s story has touched the hearts of those at the Nanny Angel Network and it is so uplifting to know the difference NAN is making in the lives of those experiencing such challenging and exhausting circumstances. Pawan and his daughters are one of many families who lives have been profoundly impacted by the presence of a Nanny Angel. This impact is exactly the kind of difference NAN aims to make in the lives of every family they serve.

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Text: Mia Shulman       Photo: Omar Duragos

Relax & Colour

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Colouring books have been a favourite childhood activity for generations. Books often feature children’s favourite characters from television, movies, or books, as well as animals and other cute subjects. NAN’s Nanny Angels often use colouring books while working with children who are coping with a parent’s cancer. It is often during these quiet moments that a child will open up and feel safe to ask questions they are afraid to ask anyone else. Happily, Nanny Angels are specially trained to answer the difficult questions children have about their parent’s illness.

More recently, there has also been a huge trend towards colouring books for adults. The craze began in 2013 when Scottish illustrator Johanna Basford was asked by a British publishing house to create a colouring book for children based off her designs. Instead, she proposed a colouring book for adults, and Secret Garden soon became an international bestseller, followed by Enchanted Forest and Lost Ocean.

For children, colouring books are a great way to occupy their time. They also provide a number of developmental benefits, from fine motor skills to eye tracking and focusing. “When a child colours in set spaces… she must coordinate a complex set of skills,” wrote homeschool teacher Marilisa Sachteleben. However, some are less enthusiastic about children’s colouring books.

New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky explained in an interview with Quartz that children are so creative that colouring books often hamper them, forcing them to conform to pre-set designs rather than stretching their innate creativity. “I don’t buy colouring books for my kids,” Jean Van’t Hul writes on her website, The Artful Parent. “I’d rather have them draw their own art than color in someone else’s.”

Whether you agree or disagree on the benefits of colouring books for children, the recent trend in adult colouring books has turned colouring into an activity that parents and children can both enjoy. Sitting down and colouring with your child is something that doesn’t take a lot of energy – perfect for a parent undergoing draining and extensive cancer treatments – and can be taken with you wherever you go. Besides being an excellent low-energy activity to do with your child, there are additional benefits for colouring for parents who are going through the immense stress of cancer treatments.

Though the American Art Therapy Association has cautioned that there is a difference between art therapy and art that is therapeutic, adult colouring books can be very relaxing for adults, and the organization has supported their use for pleasure and self-care. “People with a lot of anxiety respond really well to colouring books,” art therapist Jenefsky explained, “There are some choices involved – in terms of choosing what colours you’re gong to use and how you’re blending your colours – but there’s also a lot of structure.”

From the beautiful and delicate designs of Millie Marotta’s Animal Kingdom to the cheeky Color Me Swoon, with its images of Hollywood stars, the adult colouring book trend has produced a huge variety of colouring books. As an activity to do with your children when you don’t have much energy left or simply as a way to relax and unwind after treatment, adult colouring books are perfect for parents undergoing cancer treatments.

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Text: Jensine Jones
Sources: CBC Quartz The Artful Parent hubpages