Three Moms Leading From the Heart

Posted By on May 6, 2021
Jennifer Gage, Lorraine Tallman & Denise Resnik

“Look for the helpers,” Mr. Rogers said, when it comes to facing tough times. In honor of Mother’s Day, we salute three extraordinary moms that took a challenge and transformed it into help that extends far beyond their immediate families.

Jennifer Gage, founder of GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix

When Jennifer Gage gave birth to her first child, Kaitlyn, 24 years ago, there was less acceptance and awareness about Down syndrome. So Gage was grateful to learn about a national organization called GiGi’s Playhouse that helps those with Down syndrome — like Kaitlyn — reach their highest potential.

With Gage’s support, GiGi’s Playhouse Phoenix opened its doors in 2015, becoming the 21st playhouse nationwide. It provides free educational and therapeutic programs to individuals with Down syndrome from birth through adulthood.

“They want, and they hope and dream about, the same things that we do,” Gage said. “We are busy trying to get them ready for the world.”

Gage sat on the board as president for two years and stayed with GiGi’s, continuing to cultivate its growth and ultimately its expansion to include adult programs through GiGi University and GiGi Studio Cafe. She continues to be involved with GiGi’s strategic vision.

Lorraine Tallman, founder of Amanda Hope Rainbow Angels

In 2012, Amanda Hope was just 12 years old when she lost her fight to leukemia. In her honor, her mother started Amanda Hope Rainbow Angels, dedicated to bringing dignity and comfort to those battling childhood cancer.

From a renovated house in downtown Phoenix turned care center, the organization offers play therapy, parent support and teen counseling, serving families and children from newborn to 20. And, because siblings are often the left-behind population when another child in the family has cancer, brothers and sisters of cancer patients can receive counseling, too.

“We want families to stay together,” Tallman said.

Denise Resnik, founder of First Place and cofounder of SARRC

When Denise Resnik’s son Matthew was 2 years old, he was diagnosed with autism. “We were told to love, accept and plan to institutionalize our son,” she said.

Not knowing where to turn for help, Resnik looked to other parents, eventually forming the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC) in 1997. While it was an impressive support system, Resnik and her husband worried about what would happen when Matthew became an adult.

Dreaming about a future, inclusive residence for him, she researched, raised funds, developed a team and applied a mother’s heart to create First Place, a nonprofit that provides supportive housing options for people with autism and other neurodiversities.

Today, First Place is one of the most innovative housing options in the world, providing a way for the autism community — including Matthew — to live independently and thrive.

Read about these moms on a mission — Jennifer Gage, Lorraine Tallman and Denise Resnik — in back issues of Frontdoors Magazine. And to all of the mothers out there leading from the heart, happy Mother’s Day from Frontdoors Media!

About Karen Werner

Karen Werner is the editor of Frontdoors Media. She is a writer, editor and media consultant. She has interned at The New Yorker, worked at Parents Magazine, edited five books and founded several local magazines. Her work has appeared in Sunset, Mental Floss and the Saturday Evening Post.