VIDEO: “The program made such a difference in my life.”


Alisha and Adam are first-time parents whose eyes twinkle with joy as they describe their daughter, Addison. Addison is a happy, independent toddler who loves to read and share story time with her family.

Parenthood did not begin as a smooth journey for Addison’s parents, whose daughter was born six weeks early, immediately facing health challenges in her first months of life. While in the hospital, Addison contracted necrotizing enterocolitis a rare, deadly infection. Hospital staff caught the infection early, preventing further complications.

Addison was also born with amniotic band syndrome, a rare birth defect that in her case resulted in missing fingers and toes, and a clubbed foot. Since birth, she has undergone five surgeries to combat the effects caused by amniotic band syndrome. The series of surgeries helped make a difference in Addison’s life by improving circulation and separating fingers and toes.

Addison’s NICU nurse introduced Alisha and Adam to Southwest Human Development’s Healthy Families program, a national initiative that helps those who are facing the greatest challenges get their children off to a happy, healthy start. The program stepped in to provide the resources needed to build a strong spirit, and ensure that Addison receives the best possible support.

“No one on the planet is ready to be thrown into a situation where your child is not healthy,” said Alisha. “It’s a stressful experience, and the Healthy Families program helped so much with that.”

After participating in the Healthy Families program, Alisha and Adam’s confidence in their parenting grew as they assisted with Addison’s physical disabilities. The couple worked with two Healthy Families representatives during the course of their involvement with the program, both of which ensured that Addison received the support she needed to grow and thrive.

“Even though they’re not counselors or therapists, mine provided a huge emotional support for me,” said Alisha. “The program made such a difference in my life.”

Though Addison faces obstacles that most children don’t, the spark of love she has for life is undeniable. As Addison continues to blossom into the happy toddler she is today, her desire for independence and love of literacy never cease to amaze her parents. In close competition with spending time with the family’s household pets, story-time ranks as Addison’s favorite activity. Several times a day she asks her mother to indulge in her love of literacy and read her favorite book, Mr. Brown can Moo.

“She loves to read, she brings a book with her everywhere she goes” said Alisha. “If I don’t read to her for a couple of hours, she’ll bring me a book and we end up reading.”

Helping other children has quickly become a priority in Alisha’s life. After changing her major at ASU from pre-veterinary medicine to social work, Alisha is on track to have her Bachelor of Social Work in two years.

Working closely with Healthy Families representatives inspired Alisha to reach out to Southwest Human Development Volunteer Manager Annette Sutfin, and begin regularly volunteering to help children in need.

“It feels so good to give back to the program that has given my family so much,” said Alisha. “The longer you volunteer, the more you feel a sense of pride for giving back to the community.”

Most weeks Alisha volunteers twice a week. She has worked on various volunteer projects including building Little Free Libraries, organizing books in the agency warehouse, packaging bilingual books for the community and creating Grow A Reader flowers. When Addison is older, Alisha hopes that the pair will volunteer together and continue to make an impact in the community.

Learn more about Southwest Human Development’s programs and services today.