The Forgey Family

Forgey Family Photo

When Jenny Forgey became pregnant with her son in 2007, she began to experience unexplained health issues. From that point forward, she and her husband, Justin, did their best to protect their children Gunnar and Lily when Jenny’s symptoms presented. “By the time he was five, our son Gunnar knew how to call 9-1-1 for Mommy and what to tell anyone present when Mommy passed out,” Jenny says. Justin also suffered from a chronic health issue as well as epilepsy, but fortunately, his seizures had been under control for many years. In January 2016, however, Justin suffered one grand mal seizure that was witnessed by the children, and another shortly after, when Lily was sitting in his lap, scaring her terribly. Justin and Jenny realized at this point that they could no longer manage the emotional trauma their illnesses were causing the children.

Justin and Jenny realized at this point that they could no longer manage the emotional trauma their illnesses were causing the children.

Thankfully, the Forgeys had heard of Wonders & Worries and had even witnessed first-hand the positive effects the program offered to some friends and their families. Also, Jenny’s mom, owner of The Menagerie, had been involved with Wonders & Worries for years. “One day while Justin was in the hospital during his latest round of seizures, a friend and Wonders & Worries board member stopped into The Menagerie,” Jenny recalls, “we began speaking about Wonders & Worries, and in tears, I asked this friend if she thought Wonders & Worries would be a good fit for our family.” The following week the Forgey family had their initial appointment.

Child life staff member Ali began seeing Gunnar (8) and Lily (6), providing insight and the right tools to help the entire family address both the issue at hand and the larger picture of what was happening in their world. Justin and Jenny loved the way that Ali touched base with them before each appointment, and tailored the appointment according to the needs of the day.  When Justin was diagnosed with a secondary degenerative neurological illness, his symptoms became more pronounced and created anxiety for the children. “Instead of sticking to his original plan, Ali made an adjustment that allowed for a wonderful discussion between the whole family, during which fears came to light and specific strategies were presented to help all of us cope better,” Jenny says.

Wonders & Worries helps the family cope together.

One coping mechanism that has helped Gunnar and Lily tremendously is the “worry box.” Each child worked with Ali to create his or her own box full of coping mechanisms. When Gunnar and Lily are feeling anxious, scared, or sad, they can physically go pick up the worry box, pull out the list of coping mechanisms inside, choose one, and then check it off after doing it. The coping mechanisms include blowing bubbles, a pinwheel to help with calming breaths, tissues for crying, bubble wrap for anger or frustration and a notebook in which the kids can journal or draw.

Wonders & Worries has been a lifesaver for the Forgey family and after learning more about the program, Justin and Jenny realized that Wonders & Worries’ services are not just for a parental illness with a beginning and an end. Wonders & Worries provides illness education and coping therapy for chronic illnesses, too. “Chronic health struggles can be some of the most confusing for kids to understand,” Jenny says, “Wonders & Worries helps the whole family cope together, turning something that could potentially be devastating into a life-giving process and we are truly grateful for every person who makes this gift possible.”