BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) — Parents across Brown County have a little help coming their way from a woman they likely never met.
It’s all thanks to friends of Jessica Raymaker, who are trying to keep her memory alive.
Mornings in Kerri Matheys’ home are filled with playtime, laughter, and on good days, a visit from Veronica Thomson.
“I was like, ‘What are you doing bud?’ And he was like… ‘I’ve got to fix my hair for Miss Veronica,’ and I’m like… ‘Oh!'” says Matheys, shaking her head.
She can only laugh at her son’s remarks, but deep down, she’s thankful almost-five-year old Broden and his little sister Taelynn consider Veronica their family.
Veronica is a parent educator from Family and Childcare Resources of Northeast Wisconsin and visits them through the Parents as Teachers Program.
“You go in feeling nervous, scared, the unknown, like first day of school and what did I do wrong? But honestly, it’s an eye opener, in good ways,” says Matheys.
“Just because you take a parenting class, doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent.”
The program is designed to help families, at-risk or not, build relationships between parents and kids, understand a child’s development and provide support, especially for those without family living nearby.
“It’s so hard to get words sometimes just how amazing it is to have the resources, the help,” says Matheys.
The program is popular, currently serving 35 families, plus a waitlist with more.
But due to funding cuts at the state level, it likely wouldn’t continue had it not been for the work of Jessica Raymaker and her family and friends.
“I can still hear her voice in my head talking about children and families,” says Paula Breese, Exec Director of Family and Childcare Resources of N.E.W.
Jessica Raymaker was a free-spirited and passionate advocate for children and families.
When she lost her battle with cancer in July, donations poured into Family and Childcare Resources in Raymaker’s name.
The agency’s board decided to create a memorial fund in her name, so that money could help future families and carry on her work.
“Very sad time for us, but this is a great way for us to remember her by,” says Breese.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel, which is how it worked out for us. There’s light. There’s help,” adds Matheys.