Family & Children’s Center Healthy Families program came at a pivotal point for Cheryl. She was a young single mother new to the La Crosse area, moving to attend Western Technical College. Cheryl left an abusive relationship and ventured to a new city for a fresh start. She also left behind her entire support team consisting of her mom, stepdad and close friends. Cheryl was in a city with no real connections. She found it difficult to make friends at college due to being a young mom and many times, she felt isolated, alone and afraid. Cheryl desperately wanted to be the best parent, but often felt as though she was failing her daughter.
She unfortunately did not have the ideal, picture-perfect childhood to model what a healthy relationship and family foundation looked like. Her dad was an alcoholic and he lost his battle in February 2017 (Cheryl wishes that he rest in peace). He was physically and emotionally abusive to her mother, as well as to her and her brother. The change came when she was twelve when they were kicked out of their Chicago home. Her mother had the strength and courage to move to Wisconsin to give her children a fresh start. She certainly did the best she could raising children on her own, but Cheryl knew that when she became a mother she wanted more, and a better life for her daughter.
Family & Children’s Center Healthy Families program came into her life twenty-three years ago. She admits that when she first became part of the program she was resistant and even angry at times. It felt like the home visits were an added responsibility to her already full schedule of being mom and college student, plus working two jobs. Cheryl really thought she had everything under control and didn’t want to admit she needed any help. She was truly afraid of being judged as a bad parent and to be told she was doing it all wrong. That she was somehow weak for not being able to be Supermom. She quickly learned that true strength sometimes means asking for help.
Cheryl’s other concerns about the Healthy Families program turned out to be completely invalid. Soon into the program, she started looking forward to the home visits and what they provided her and her daughter. It was her opportunity to ask questions and to share her concerns, but also to share her successes. It was a shoulder to cry on because parenting was hard work and single parenting was truly the biggest challenge in her life. Her Family Systems Specialist provided her with resources within the community, such as Headstart, immunization clinics, job center and resume guidance. The specialist helped Cheryl understand what a healthy relationship should look like so she wouldn’t repeat past behaviors when looking for a partner.
They discussed goal setting and her plans post-graduation, to ensure she would have a career that would support Cheryl and her daughter. She truly cared about Cheryl and her daughter and wanted them to be a happy and healthy family unit! Many times Cheryl considered moving back home in those early years; but she persevered and now 24 years later, she is still proud to call the La Crosse area her home.
Today, she lives her passion in helping others find their inner strength mentally and physically. She works as a personal trainer, nutrition specialist, wellness coach and yoga instructor. In December of 2017, she took a leap of faith and signed a lease in Onalaska to open her own facility — Changing Lanes Fitness & Nutrition. She wants to help others realize their true potential in their health and wellness, and never be afraid to change lanes on the road of life. Most recently she received her 100 Hour YogaFit Warrior Certification and plans to help those in our community suffering from trauma, PTSD, and other mental health issues by introducing yoga, breathing techniques and meditation. Cheryl knows first-hand the benefits of yoga in helping heal past trauma, depression and anxiety. With the growing mental health crisis, Cheryl wants to help the La Crosse community and give back to the community that helped her overcome so much.
She feels so lucky to share this amazing life with her husband Jim. They have been married for over sixteen years and he has supported her in every way possible. He adopted Skyla and he is an amazing father and husband. They also have an awesome fifteen-year-old son, Isaac.
The true champion of her story is her daughter Skyla. Skyla has had a challenging couple of years, but has said numerous times, that the strength of her family has kept her moving forward and focusing on the positives. She stayed in La Crosse for college and received her bachelor’s degree in Community Health from UW-L. She is currently studying for her master’s in Public Health while working full-time as a Community Educator with Coulee Council on Addictions. She is intelligent, honest and compassionate with a desire to help others in our community. To say that Cheryl is a proud mom is truly an understatement. She is proud of their journey together as a family and for breaking the cycle of abuse, addiction and poverty.
“I believe the help from Family Children’s Center Healthy Families program was instrumental in getting me through those initial years. Thank you for all you did to support me during some of the most challenging years of motherhood — I am forever grateful.”
Thank you to all the donors for without your support and generosity this program couldn’t continue to help improve family dynamics and build a stronger community!