Friday, August 1, 2014

I'm the Proud Aunt of the 2014-15 GNHA Queen in Support of #Autism

It is with immense pride that I write this article, in recognition of my niece, Rachel Nunley, who has matured into a beautiful young lady. She has always been extremely dedicated to her family, her friends and everything in which she becomes involved such as playing softball, being a cheerleader, taking care of and the showing of her animals. Rachel has shown that she is also committed when it comes to raising awareness for the causes which hold importance to her. She, along with her mother, who is my younger sister, and the rest of their family have been a great support to me since my youngest son was diagnosed with Autism six years ago. It has been a long journey like nothing our family would have ever imagined but, it has made me a better person and I am grateful for the chance to be my son's advocate!

Over the last year, Rachel has been spending her weekends at the arenas with her horses running poles and barrels in preparation for the competition in late July 2014. My niece has also been competing as one of two candidates for queen to be crowned at the completion of the July 2014 GNHA Finals at the Lawton Coliseum. When Rachel was recently asked how does one win the title of GNHA Queen, she answered "By having an outstanding appearance, personality, speaking skills, and horsemanship. The queen candidate gets judged in all those areas for a year and the one with the most points wins."

My sister, Rachel's mother, was her personal seamstress and creator of the numerous themed eye-catching western shirts w/ matching saddle pads & gear for her horses to match her during the competitions. My niece was dressing in Autism themed apparel & riding in honor of my youngest son, Nathan, with her horse's matching saddle pad stating "in honor of Nate the Great". These items were worn during the arena event in April supporting Autism Awareness Month but, the big showing of her support was during the week of the July 2014 GNHA Finals when all of the districts came together in competition against each other. 

Rachel and her family have done so mush to raise awareness for Autism. They handed out more than 100 handmade buttons that either displayed a picture of my son, Nathan and/or one with a multi-colored rose on a white background with the words Autism Awareness on them during the week of the July 2014 GNHA (Grand Nationals Horseman Association) Finals. It is an amazing feeling to have the support of my teenage niece in such a public and widespread manner!! Kudos to my sister, Heather, and her husband, Danny, for an excellent job of raising Rachel and instilling responsibility, compassion and integrity in her and each of her siblings, Kaitlin and Daniel. 

The same week that Rachel was participating in the GNHA Finals at the Lawton Coliseum, Nathan, his brother, Vincent and I were attending the 3rd annual Autism day Camp C.A.N.O.E. located at CampFire Heart of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City. I drove the boys to Lawton to take pictures with Rachel and her horse, Skip. It was a great experience to actually get to see my niece in the western shirts that my sister had made, get pictures of the boys with her, her horse with his matching saddle pad, and spend some time with her and my sister's family at dinner before heading back to Oklahoma City. Nathan and Vincent excitedly told everyone about our trip at Autism camp the next day.

My niece, Rachel, has probably spent almost every weekend over the last year participating in GNHA Playday events hosted by participating districts around her area. She also had to do public speaking, socially interact with all the members of each GNHA district and dress up in the beautifully hand-made western shirts for each of these events. Just a few days after our visit, my niece was chosen to represent GNHA as the 2014-2015 Queen. She has really matured over the last year in becoming a candidate for the title of the 2014-2015 GNHA Queen. I am extremely proud of her accomplishment and dedication to such a time-consuming schedule. If anyone ever deserved the recognition of the time that she dedicated to this year-long endeavor, it is definitely my niece, Rachel. This is something to celebrate and, hopefully, it will inspire someone that needs the courage to do something in their life that they have put on hold or haven't started. 

Please share this article with someone you know. It would mean so much to our family to be able to reach as many people as possible through the story of what my niece accomplished and how she chose to raise awareness for Autism in her surrounding community. It takes a special person to commit to such a task and have the stamina to follow it through to the end. I'm not sure that I could have been able to do something as extraordinary as what Rachel has done. She has officially become my family's superhero.

To read the essay that Rachel wrote for Autism Awareness, please check out where I shared it on my Facebook page here. You never know who you may come in contact with that might know someone, or have someone in their life that has some form of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Sharing it with them may just be what they need to realize that they and their family are not alone! If you are not sure but, you think that your child may, or may not, have Autism, please take a few minutes to check out another article, Autism How-To Guide for Parents, which I wrote for an online parenting community a few years ago. Thank you again for taking the time to support a cause so close to my heart and one that is becoming an epidemic across our nation.

If you want to follow me on Twitter, you can find me at @NathansVoice and @MissMaryMackOKC. I frequent other sites such as LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+, as well. My email address is and I always look forward to hearing from anyone looking for available resources in their local community. 

~Lorrie Servati

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