07282017
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Creating rays of hope for families of children with special needs

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Springville’s Mark Leck felt inspired to start the United Angels Foundation after his daughter Aubrey was born. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV Mag)

Before Mark and Amber Leck married, she had a dream where she learned her daughter’s name would be Aubrey. In the dream, she and her husband thanked God for sending them one of His choice spirits.

Now, Aubrey is 7 and the sign above her door reads, “A dream come true.”

Mark, who is CEO of RedX, started the United Angels Foundation to support families who have children with special needs living under their rooftop.

The idea came to Mark when Aubrey was born. She was Mark and Amber’s first child and all of the tests showed no abnormalities. When Aubrey had an emergency C-section, she left Mark with the instructions to follow the baby and record every moment. After the baby’s delivery, Mark noticed several white coats inspecting his newborn daughter. Then one of them turned to him and said he might want to turn the camera off.

“She told us we had won the lottery and we just didn’t know it yet,” Mark says. “We didn’t feel like we had won the lottery at that moment, but talking to her gave us a total paradigm shift.” — Mark Leck, United Angels Foundation founder

“Your baby shows signs that she has Down syndrome,” the doctor said. “Did you have any idea that might be the case?”

The information stunned Mark. The doctor explained genetic testing could be done, but he was 95 percent sure Aubrey had the genetic disorder.

When Mark took the baby to meet Amber, he told her the doctor’s report.

“She looked at me and said, ‘Is this just a dream? Please wake me up,’ and I just had to say, ‘I’m sorry, it’s not a dream but it will be OK,’” Mark recalls.

When the news comes that a child has Down syndrome, parents experience a range of emotions. Some feel guilt wondering if they did something wrong, others are fearful of the uncertain future and the Lecks stayed in the hospital, receiving only advice of what life would be like from a medical standpoint until a nurse named Kathy came to meet with them. Although Kathy wasn’t assigned to the patients, she had a daughter with special needs and wanted to encourage the Lecks.

“She told us we had won the lottery and we just didn’t know it yet,” Mark says. “We didn’t feel like we had won the lottery at that moment, but talking to her gave us a total paradigm shift.”

Kathy gave them hope. She gave them strength to know everything would be OK.

As life progressed, the Lecks got more involved in the special needs community and Mark realized not every parent of a child with special needs has a “Kathy.” That’s when the conversation of creating the United Angels Foundation began.

Mark reached out to Cedar Hills resident Jill Austin, who has a daughter with special needs and experience in foundation work.

Jill Austin is the executive director of the United Angels Foundation. Her daughter, Joby, is 16. (Photo by Dave Blackhurst/UV Mag)

Together they started the United Angels Foundation — an organization with the mission of supporting parents and families of children with special needs. The foundation offers a multitude of programs including newborn visits to give parents hope and a network to rely on, like Mark and Amber had. Other programs include educational seminars, iPads for Angels, Sub 4 Santa, Angel Awards recognizing individuals who make an extra effort to help children with special needs, Ride to New Heights (a specialized bike program for children with special needs), and Walk with Angels (an annual advocacy community event).

United Angels Foundation has lifted over 1,000 families across the Wasatch Front, including the Leck and Austin families.

“We are taking notes like everyone else,” Mark says. “We’ll introduce the speakers and then try to figure out our own estate planning along with the rest of the attendees.”

They love seeing the impact the organization has on their own families as well as others.

“This has given me a platform to do what I love — advocate for my child and the special needs community,” Jill says.


Add your light

To request a visit from United Angels Foundation, become a member or donate to the cause, visit UnitedAngels.org.

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