Letters From Parents

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Dear Hannah & Friends,

I am so grateful to be writing this thank you note. The funds that you provided for Clare have been an amazing gift to us. We used the funds to pay weekly therapy which includes physical, occupational, speech and music therapy. She is thriving because of these services and we greatly appreciate your help in reducing the financial strain these services place on our family.

You have a wonderful organization. We are so blessed.

– The Clare Conrad Family

Dear Friends,

Thank you for the scholarship for my daughter, McKenzie, to attend summer camp at Hannah & Friends. Weekly summer camp at Hannah & Friends have definitely helped McKenzie be more outgoing. She is very comfortable at Hannah & Friends where activities really suit her. She has great role models at Hannah & Friends. Each day, McKenzie wakes up and asks “What’s today?” She is always happy when the reply is “Today is Hannah and Friends”

Thank you the Weis family, Hannah & Friends staff, volunteers and donor who make it possible for there to be a place where McKenzie can learn to be herself and be comfortable in sharing her own unique talents and personality with others. Thank you for a summer that provided her with new vocabulary, growing confidence in her abilities and a way to move away from saying “I’m shy.”

We are forever grateful that Hannah & Friends was developed to provide opportunities for neighbors at Hannah & Friends and those from the community, like our very special McKenzie, who benefit from this wonderful place.


Jenessa Morlock

Dear Hannah & Friends,

On behalf of the Melendez Family, we thank you for reaching out with your helping hand. God has blessed us greatly along our journey with Bianca with compassionate people who have awareness and are true humanitarians. We would never have come this far without your assistance and genuine support.

Bianca will no doubt greatly benefit with this opportunity to continue her education. Her desire to become an independent educated adult with a disability will become a reality as she continues in her program.

She has been attending The Berkshire Hills Music Academy, located in South Hadley, Mass since February of 2013. We are thrilled at her ability to adjust to her new surroundings and make healthy relationships in her journey of life. This has been an awesome opportunity for her to grow as every young adult desires. Without your donation this could not be possible.

Thank you again for your loving support,

The Melendez Family

Dear Hannah & Friends,

Thank you very much for the grant that you graciously decided to give to my son Michael. It was very much a blessing and well appreciated. Without the grant Michael would have to go without those things that are desperately needed. It is not always easy to provide these things to Michael because of our family’s household finances. It is good to know that there are people who have a heart to care and desire to help. Again on behalf of Michael and my family thank you so very much, God bless you, your family and organization.

Respectfully Yours,

Shantel Johnson

Dear Hannah & Friends,

I just want to take this time to say thank you very much for approving my son Brandon for this grant. This gave him the opportunity to do many events of his interest this past summer. He had such a great time and was very happy. This helped out our family greatly. Again, thank you so much. Its appreciate much more than you know!

Barbara Nichois

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Dear Hannah & Friends,

Thank you for being such an amazing resource for parents of special needs children. I was excited to apply for a grant for my daughter after reading your website! It is obvious that you value the role that art, music, and play hold for all children, but especially those with special needs.

Thank you so much for your generous grant for my daughter, Hailey. Your grant helped us provide Hailey the opportunity to participate in CampAbility at Easter Seals Crossroad, a wonderful day camp in the Indianapolis area.

Hailey has a rare deletion of her 14th chromosome. We don’t know what that means for her future because there are so few with her condition. She faces many difficulties but through it all she is happy and lives in the moment. Her moments at CampAbility were definitively some great ones. Hailey is non-verbal, but she would kick and shriek with excitement every day the Easter Seals building would come into view on our way to camp. Camp gave her the chance to take part in horseback riding, visit the zoo and Children’s Museum. Thank you for giving the gift of an INCREDIBLE summer to my daughter!


Laura Fife and the Fife Family

Dear Hannah’s Helping Hands,

We sincerely thank you for the generous grant for our daughter Olivia. We feel extremely relieved when we receive a check from Hannah’s Helping Hands! You are like angels to us, making life’s struggles more bearable!

Your thoughtful grant has provided so much for our daughter. Olivia’s life is more enriched by the services provided by your grant, which makes her stronger, more sociable and more comfortable. Olivia has made far greater strides and has been more successful because of Hannah’s Helping Hands grants. We could never have provided all that we have for Olivia over the past few years without your help.

We are thankful to have received this grant; Olivia is so well taken care of by Hannah’s Helping Hands. It is awesome to us to know there are caring people such as Hannah’s Helping Hands in this world. We are thankful for all you have done for Olivia, and our family.

Best Regards,

The Bennett Family

Dear Hannah & Friends,

Thank you so much for the grant given to Celeste.

We were blown away when we received your gift. Your kindness is overwhelming, but so much appreciated. We’ve become very stressed with Celeste’s medication and therapy bills. Celeste has a rare epileptic condition called Dravet Syndrome.

We can breathe easier this summer thanks to you. Celeste deserves every opportunity available to her. The funds will be used for horse therapy and for special needs soccer.

We’ve often felt alone in our journey to help her. We know we’re not alone thanks to thoughtful people like you. We will always keep you in our prayers.


Jesús & Cathy Ferrando

Family Fest 2009, a parent’s perspective

What a special day it was on August 22 when Hannah and Friends had its first annual Family Fest. Nothing could dampen the extraordinary fun that all the children and their families experienced. My children were so excited as we left our home for Hannah and Friends. I told them that Hannah had invited them to a big party. All of their thoughts could not have prepared them for what we saw when we arrived. This was Hannah’s biggest party ever!

The children could participate in everything from going down a huge air slide to volleyball. They could try and dunk Charlie Weis Jr if they hit the target just right. Joshua and Chloe just laughed and giggled as he went down in to the water tank each time.

They even had some of the kids favorite treats to eat. Chick-Fil-A and hot dogs followed by snow cones, it was a dream meal for them.

After some lunch it was back to the family fest. Each of my kids had their favorite moment. For Chloe, it was when the Notre dame cheerleaders showed up to Family Fest. She was in awe as some of the young ladies served as special role models for her. She always talks about being a cheerleader and now the Notre Dame cheerleaders were showing her a special cheer and she was doing it with them.

For Joshua, his biggest moment came as he got to play with some of the volunteers from Notre dame. He was so proud as he got points at everything from the football toss to playing hoops. He even got a chance to go fishing for prizes and was a ‘winner’.

The experience of Family Fest has given us a wonderful memory to cherish forever. There is an unwavering commitment from this organization to serving those in the community with developmental challenges.

The mission of Hannah and Friends is to raise awareness and compassion for those that have developmental delays. Family Fest is just one way Hannah and Friends is making this happen. Our family cannot wait to attend Family Fest 2010, I look forward to celebrating that day with all of you next year.

The Parker Family

July 9. 2009

I received a grant for my son, Mikey and I am just thrilled. I wanted to express my gratitude.. I am able to send Mikey to an ABA based jump class which he enjoys very much. We also got training from an ABA therapist about potty training which seems to be working, so far!

I will submit my information/receipts formally, but I kept thinking about your organization and how wonderful it is to help families/children like ours.

Have a wonderful day.

Cheryl Ann Connelly

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September 22, 2008

When my autistic son was severely depressed, I called on Maura and Charlie Weis for support. My son is a huge Notre Dame fan. His grandfather taught here and I graduated from Notre Dame. When I told my son the new coach and his wife had a special needs daughter named Hannah, he listened. I told him, you need to look at the Hannah and Friends Web site with me.

The Weis family is going to change our community, especially how people view people with different abilities, as Maura Weis so fondly refers to them. Coach Weis took time out of his hectic schedule, (because his wife asked him to) to boost the morale of a lost autistic young man who was caught in between two worlds. He is so high functioning, that he longed to be that neurotypical honor role student on the high school football team. That autumn day, my son no longer was autistic; he had only abilities – to be one-on-one with Coach Charlie Weis, his mentor.

Yes, I believe they got the right coach to do the job. No doubt in my mind. The University should be proud that sometimes it’s not always about football or getting the perfect job. It is about education, compassion, making the world a better place to live, uniting racial differences and educating the poor and the mentally challenged.

So whether the Irish are up or down on their luck, when you paint your body blue and green or wear the Golden Dome on your head, you are also celebrating the spirit of a much bigger picture which I believe is what Notre Dame is all about. The Weis’ are building a home for our true unsung heroes and heroines, who cannot make a life for themselves, go to college or even some who cannot even wash their own bodies. The Weis family is building them a home in which they can grow old and fill their time with fun things to do, surrounded by love every day. They will be respected, cared for and celebrated. If you spend time with these gentle souls, you will learn more about God, Heaven and why you are fortunate enough to share the planet with them. They only know love and want to be your friend. Unfortunately, they have learned fear, cruelty and indifference.

Yes, I believe they got the right Coach to do the job. No doubt in my mind. The true Spirit of the Irish is in helping those who cannot help themselves. One day you may give birth to a Downs baby, or your son or daughter will be confined to a wheelchair from an auto accident. My education from the University of Notre Dame and from my parents helped me deal with what I thought was a tragedy. I educated myself on autism and tried everything possible to help my son make sense of our world. I see what a true blessing my son is. I am honored God chose me to help raise an angel, against the odds. I did win overall.

Katherine Robinson Coleman
alum, class of 1978
Sept. 19


My name is Nancy and I wanted to thank you for writing such a inspiring book, I have a 12 year old son, Tommy with special needs and I have experienced several things that were described in your book. As you stated in the book, these children are a blessing and my son Tommy has made me a better parent, he taught be to be patient, more loving and to continue to reach out to other parents with kids with special needs. My son is still undiagnosed and at this time in our lives we are OK with that, I know Tommy is happy, loving and lives without any worries. I am planning to spread the word about the “Special Place” in South Bend in the Chicago area to other parents and encourage them to read your story hoping they get the same warm feeling as I did when I read the book.

While reading your book I feel like I know Hannah and believe you have been the chosen ones to raise her and she is very blessed to have both of you in her life. I wish everyone the best….I am enclosing a picture of my Tommy, the only one I have with “BUSTER” from the show “ARTHUR”, he still loves the PBS characters especially BARNEY.


Nancy Bradel
Chicago, IL

I have just finishes reading Miles for the Sideline and was so touched by Maura and Hannah’s story. I am currently completing my undergrad work in elementary and special education. Yesterday I received a text message from one of my professors whose opinion I respect and value. She told me about this book and said I should check it out. I went out last night to buy it and finished reading it this afternoon. I couldn’t put it down! The story of this mother and daughter is written so honestly with its ups and downs that it was impossible to put down. It was a true inspiration and reminded me why I want to be a part of this profession. Thank you Maura, for your inspirational words!

Kendra E. Singletary
Lock Haven University

Many Thanks

Thanks to both Maura and Charlie Weis for their many efforts in helping, supporting and reaching out to children with developmental disabilities and their parents. I was so touched today when I heard Coach Weis on the JIM ROME radio show talking about the 30 acres and residential facilities he is trying to develop for kids with developmental disabilities and their

My son is about to turn 18 and is graduating from high school. He has autism spectrum disorder with pervasive developmental delays. Though he is somewhat high functioning and will be able to get a diploma, there are so many worries and fears that we have for his future. We are quite uncertain if he can handle college level work. What if he can’t? What if he is not able to be vocationally trained to work a job where he can have gainful employment and live on his own? Who will take care of him when we are gone?

The school system provides so much and then it provides no more, because it is woefully lacking in training our children for what they really need- lifeskills. They can address these programs to lower functioning children with Down syndrome, but for kids with autism who may be low or high functioning or in the middle, they just don’t have the right pieces in place.

As we all know, autism is reaching epidemic proportions. Our society had better wake up and learn that there are hundreds of thousands of children in this country, like my son, who won’t need nursing or group homes, but may need special places in the community to live their lives as they go out into the world. This endeavor by Hannah and Friends and the Weis family is a wonderful step in that direction.

I sincerely thank you as a parent who has spent many hundreds of hours trying to research, network and develop a life plan for my child. I know how much this facility will mean when it is built. Thanks once again for all the hard work. It means so much.

Yvonne Holland

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