Faces of the Movement: Penny and Mike Hanlon

Penny and Mike Hanlon are the parents of four wonderful children. Having experienced the loss of their daughter Jessica Marie in 1997 and dealing with the needs of a daughter with Mitochondrial Disease (Gabrielle) they created resources for families of children with special needs.

Penny and Mike serve on a number of boards…from hospitals and non-profit organizations to church and outreach ministries. Penny serves as the Director of Special Needs for Avon United Methodist Church, while Mike is the President of the Board of Directors of Nehemiah Ranch.

Penny has released a new product through Coming Home LLC, The Healing Journey – A Healing Journal…designed to help families experience healing through the traumatic times that begin when a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness. The journal guides families through the experience-helping them to see where their experiences and God’s plans intersect.

Penny and Mike will be serving as speakers for this year’s Inclusion Fusion Special Needs Ministry Web Summit. Here’s a guest blog written by Penny…Coming Home

Organizing, planning, and managing, while loving…this tag line says it all. I would like to say this all happened over night but then again I think I would have missed out on what an awesome God we really have. God has been so good to us in spite of our challenges. I am so thankful for what He has done for us.

Mike and I have been married for 17 years. We have 4 beautiful children, one with special needs.

Out of my 6 pregnancies, our first child was born three weeks early by emergency C-section. Our second child was a difficult pregnancy and delivery. She had multiple delays and problems. One morning, when she was 10 months old, I found her dead in her crib. She had suffocated. My next 2 pregnancies were relatively smooth.  I then had a miscarriage, and we then had another son.

Despite the various medical problem pregnancies and the loss of our second child, Jessica, nothing prepared me for the intense medical needs for our daughter Gabrielle. At four months things went terribly wrong; she was rushed to the hospital with severe seizures. The doctors put her into a medically induced coma. We did not know if she would live or die. God’s miraculous hand brought her home to us. She was later diagnosed with multiple disabilities; among them a seizure disorder, brain damage, and a mitochondrial disease being her primary diagnosis. She was in the hospital for over a month and when she came home our lives were changed forever.

When we were told we could take Gabrielle home my mind was focused on the fact that we were finally leaving the hospital and our lives were going to get back to normal. Normal, now that couldn’t be further from the truth. What was once normal, raising my three children all under the age of five, going to the park, having play dates, making dinner for my family, now became a life of a constant scheduled existence. There was so much to manage; it was very frustrating trying to remember and keep track of all of her medical history. My weeks turned into a whirlwind of doctor’s appointments, tests, phone calls, questions, symptoms and treatments. I was always answering the same questions, needing to explain her symptoms and condition over and over again; giving doctors and nurses lists of her medications. The information seemed never ending.

Because of my experience, I created an organizer to help me manage Gabrielle’s medical information. I learned how important it was to keep everything together, organized, and up to date. Once I started using it I felt more prepared with meetings with doctors, therapists, and during emergency room visits. I felt more confident to make decisions on my daughter’s behalf. The more I began to organize her medical information, the more proactive I became in managing her care. I was less focused on my worry and anxiety related to her illness and could better focus on being her mama and just loving her. The peace of mind was incredible!  I discovered others who needed this type of resource, leading me to turn it into a product and offer it to others.

The journal was created because I needed to find God in all of this pain and suffering.  I have always been a Christian, always went to church, always loved God but when this kind of deep emotional suffering began happening in my life, my view changed and I began to question God.  Does He really love me? Will this pain ever end? Why did He give me a “broken” child? As all of this was going on I began to search for something to help me put things in perspective. I needed to find an outlet for this emotional rollercoaster that I was on, one that was positive, spiritual, and uplifting. I needed to find something that talked about having a special needs child, and the feelings, frustrations, and challenges that a mother and family go through in raising a special needs child. I needed to find a resource, guidelines, something that would help me process all of the traumatic events of my child’s life that would ultimately change my life as a wife, mother, caregiver, and friend. I needed to know that through the pain and suffering God is there, God does love me and that my child is not broken she is a precious gift from God and if I will let Him, He will show me all of this and more.

From all of this I have learned that there is healing and hope in our Lord Jesus Christ! In spite of our challenges God wants to touch our hurting spirit and heal our broken hearts. May you know that when you put your hope in God and in his Word he who promised is faithful!

The Coming Home Medical Organizer developed by Penny is available here.

Inclusion Fusion, Key Ministry’s second annual Special Needs Ministry Web Summit is made available FREE OF CHARGE to pastors, church staff, volunteers and families everywhere from November 12th-16th, 2012. For an up to date list of speakers, topics, links to speaker blogs and a link for free registration, click here.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
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1 Response to Faces of the Movement: Penny and Mike Hanlon

  1. Jenny (Bennett) Deputy says:

    So well written, Penny! So glad to have known and served with you and Mike the past 4 years on FAC!


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