Former Prince Albert resident nominated for Mom of the Year

Jodi
Jodi Schellenberg
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Through hard work and dedication, Laverne Bissky is a great role model for moms everywhere.

Laverne Bissky, seen here with a Vietnamese child with cerebral palsy, has been nominated for Walmart’s Mom of the Year contest.

This year, Bissky’s son, Devin, nominated her for Walmart’s Mom of the Year contest for not only her work with her own daughter, Kasenya, who has cerebral palsy, but also for her dedication to education others about the disorder in Vietnam.

Although the family currently lives in Alberta, Bissky is originally from Prince Albert.

“We moved to Alberta so that our daughter could have more access to services that are just not in place in Saskatchewan,” she said. “It has always felt like a sacrifice to move here. We are really grateful for everything we have here but Saskatchewan still feels like it is home for us.”

Bissky said Devin grew up he started to recognize the challenges presented to his parents when it came to helping Kasenya.

In 2008, Bissky and her husband, Dave, pulled the children out of school to travel Southeast Asia for four months.

“He also knew how much work it was and how much planning it took for us to take his sister anywhere because she uses a wheelchair,” Bissky said.

One of the countries the family stopped at was Vietnam, where they met a boy with cerebral palsy that lived in a small village.

While they were there, Bissky realized how different the boy’s life was from her daughter’s since he didn’t have a wheelchair. While her daughter was having fun with other children who pushed her around in her wheelchair, the boy was bedridden.

After leaving the village, Bissky decided to find a wheelchair to send to the boy.

“Unfortunately the little boy died before we could get the wheelchair to him,” Bissky said. “While I was struggling with the pain of that, I realized that it wasn’t just one little boy -- there are many children in Vietnam that live in little villages and have cerebral palsy and live under those circumstances.”

That thought inspired her to start the No Ordinary Journey foundation in 2012.

In 2013, Bissky travelled back to Vietnam with her husband and daughter, visiting orphanages, hospitals and other care facilities to figure out the best way the foundation could help others.

“What we came up was we felt it would be really important for us to support the families and the health professionals that live right in those communities,” Bissky said. “We decided to focus on rural, poor and remote areas of the country.”

In March and April of this year, she went back to Vietnam with a team of 10 people from four different countries to work with parents of children with cerebral palsy.

Not only were they educating the parents on how to exercise, feed and manage their children’s conditions, they also wanted to counteract the myths surrounding the disorder in the country. Bissky said many believe it is caused by bad karma by something either the parents or the child has done.

“It is kind of one of those things that I felt compelled to do,” she said. “Once you feel compelled to do something there is just always a way to make it happen.”

Bissky believes her work with the foundation is another reason Devin nominated her for Mom of the Year.  

“He was also there when we were in Vietnam where this whole idea emerged for me of working with and helping children who have cerebral palsy,” Bissky said. “He has basically been there kind of the whole time and he understands how important this is for me and what it really means to me to be able to help other parents.

“It has been a personal experience of his as well and I think he thought this was a way he could help me do even more of something that is important to me.”

When Bissky found out she was chosen as one of the top 20 semifinalist from a pool of about 12,000 moms she was shocked.

“I guess I was really happy about it but truthfully I thought out of 12,000 what are the chances I would make it to semifinalist,” she said. “There are a lot of really amazing people out there that do really amazing things and I really didn’t expect that I would be one of the 20 finalists.”

Out of the semifinalists, six will be chosen as finalist receiving $10,000 for their charity and $10,000 for themself.

“My husband and I decided right away that if I were actually to be one of the six finalists that get that award that we will donate the $10,000 so it means $20,000 and for a little charity like us, that is really a lot,” Bissky said.

To help Bissky get one of the top six spots, people can go to www.momoftheyear.ca to vote for her.

One winner will be chosen through voting and the other five will be chosen by a panel of judges.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Walmart, No Ordinary Journey foundation

Geographic location: Vietnam, Alberta, Saskatchewan Southeast Asia

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