April's How I LIVE UNITED: Vanesa Crowfoot

Post written by guest blogger and communications intern Jani C.

Vanesa Crowfoot is a student at Brigham Young University majoring in human development who thinks it is important for college students to get involved and volunteer in the community. After hearing about United Way of Utah County’s Welcome Baby program, she got involved.

“Although she is very busy as a full-time student, she makes sure she is a volunteer in the community,” said Stephanie Anderson, United Way of Utah County’s Welcome Baby coordinator. “She is taking what she is learning in her classes and using it right now, not waiting until graduation.”

Welcome Baby is a home visitation program that creates a support system for new parents. Volunteers visit participants once a month to teach about their child’s development. Volunteers are mostly experienced mothers and the participants can turn to them when they have questions about their own children.

“I find it inspiring that young college students like Vanesa are looking for ways they can volunteer in the community,” said Stacey Mitchell, a Welcome Baby VISTA with United Way of Utah County.

Crowfoot does not have any children of her own, but she is still a valuable resource to parents and helps strengthen their families.

“I get excited, and I just want to help,” Crowfoot said. “Even though I am not a mom, I try to share and give what I can.”

Crowfoot has been volunteering with Welcome Baby since November. She said, “I feel with the education that I have received, it was a way I could give back to the community.”

Although so many different resources are available for parents of newborns, Crowfoot said at times the participants don’t know about them, but she is able to direct the parents where to go for specific questions they have about their child.

“[Welcome Baby] helps the new moms to have confidence and support in becoming a mother,” Crowfoot said.

Dial 2-1-1 for more information about how you can become a volunteer in Utah County.


Drop, Cover, and Hold On

January 17th, 1994 is a day I will never forget. I had fallen asleep on the floor the night prior and I was woken up in the early morning by what used to be the shelf in my closet.  A 6.8 earthquake hit my southern California town; the epicenter only miles away. I can still remember my parents’ voices, shouting, making sure we were all okay.  My dad ran to my brother's aid to retrieve the bookshelf that had fallen on him. Everyone gathered and made our way outside- the sky still dark at 4:30 in the morning.  My dad left almost immediately with our neighbor to make sure every house had their gas turned off. That’s something I love about my dad. He always knows what to do in situations like that and is always willing to help. I know I’ll be safe with him around. After my dad got back, my family piled into our van to check on some close friends down the road. As I was getting in, someone accidentally slammed the sliding van door onto my little finger. Crying hysterically, I told my mom to take me to the hospital immediately. Her stern, but loving voice, responded by informing me that there were people that were much more injured than me and that the hospital would be full. I was shocked- the magnitude of what happened finally sunk into my young mind.

Later that day we reentered our home to check on the damage. The smell of syrup completely filled the air. It seemed nothing had stayed in any cupboard in the entire house. It took years for our community and our house to be completely put back together, but that earthquake was a real wake up call for many.

My dad secured all our furniture to the wall. Nothing was to be put on the wall above our beds (I still make sure to do this) and flashlights were loaded with batteries. Food storage became much more personal.

Utah has been gearing up to prepare itself for their next big earthquake (last one was 350 years ago). It is predicted to happen at any time. Today over 900,000 Utahns practiced during a drill at 10:15 am. Decide now to prepare yourself and your family. Here are some ways:

Step 1: Get a kit/supplies ready

·         Here’s a good list of kit supplies:

·         Make sure everyone in your household has enough food/water for 72 hours to a week

·         Put flashlights by every bed

·         Make sure to have cash

Step 2: Make a Plan

·         Set up a communication plan in the case that not all of your family is together

·         Where do you meet, how will you contact each other?

 Being prepared can help put you at ease in an emergency situation and allow you to help others. I hope you all look for ways that you can prepare you and your family!

Northridge Earthquake Damage, source:


After 8 Years I'm Finally Going To...

Bubba was the name of my first fish. He was a beautiful blue Beta fish. I loved watching his three tail fins gently sway with the water. I know what they say about Beta fish, they fight. But nonetheless Bubba was kept in the same tank as my sister’s 6+ fish. Then one day Bubba was gone. Vanished. Probably eaten by the Tiger Fish we had. Then I got another blue Beta fish. I named him Bubba. This routine continued for about 3 rounds of Bubba beta fish and not once did Bubba come out on top.

My main squeeze, Bubba:

Then, in 2003 Finding Nemo found me. Remember that movie? Remember how real it looked? Remember how bad it made you want to go to the Great Barrier Reef or ride the EAC? My fascination with the aquamarine world was intensified. I had to be by the ocean or at least near an aquarium larger than the Doctor’s fish tank. Not long after that I went to Seattle with my mom and had my first experience at an aquarium. Picture it, the 5-year-old children gazing at the fish. And me. You can only imagine how excited I was to find out Utah would be getting an aquarium. It’s been 8 years since The Living Planet Aquarium made its debut and I still haven’t been. What have I been doing for 8 years?!

Folks, I’m pleased to announce that I will go to The Living Planet Aquarium. When, you ask? Saturday April 21st. Did you know there’s a day called Global Youth Service Day and people all around the world organize and log service projects? Well they do and there’s one at The Living Planet Aquarium this year. What’s better than doing something I love and joining forces with the world on a day of service? Nothing. I know I know, your love may not be the same as my love. That’s fine! You can find projects all around that might interest you. And if you don’t, you could make your own project. Just go to the Global Youth Service Day website to find out how. That’s the great thing about volunteering, you can find ways to improve your community through the things that you already love. So think, what do you have a passion for? Do you have it? Good. Now turn it into a service project. I promise you can!

What Projectile Vomiting Can Teach You.


Years ago when my little nephew was born, my sister-in-law, then a semi-paranoid and overanxious mother (this is, by the way, a very normal developmental stage in a woman’s life), called our house at about midnight. I answered the phone and immediately heard her semi-hurried/frantic  voice  say, “Is mom there? Can I talk to her?” Mom quickly picked up another line, but I stayed on the line because I wanted to know what was going on.

Here’s the conversation I overheard (names have been changed to protect the innocent):

My Mom: Hey Mildred, what’s going on?

Mildred: Frankie is projectile vomiting! Is this normal? What should I do??


A brief interruption to discuss the Physics of Projectile Motion:


It sounds funny, but her concern is a real one for many new parents – vomiting and projectile vomiting, depending on the severity can be a very valid concern! (talk to your doctor.)

I use this story to illustrate the concern and worry that many new parents feel as they’re trying to take care of a new baby and have no idea what to do or where to begin. Usually, families will have a great support system in family, friends and a health care provider, however, its SUPER important for parents to be knowledgeable about parenting and child development so that they have appropriate expectations for their child’s behavior at every age and can see their child in a positive light instead of being worried that Billy Bob is so behind compared to Silly Sally.

One FANTASTIC resource is to provide parents with a developmental questionnaire that can teach parents what is normal development as their child grows from a baby to toddler to a young child.

Where would one obtain such a questionnaire you ask?

Never fear! Help Me Grow is here!

Help Me Grow Utah, a program within United Way of Utah County provides such a questionnaire to parents for free so that they can track their child’s development from 0-5 years old.

It’s called the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. 


It goes through 30 questions or activities that your child should be doing for their age. These questions fall under five domains of development: communication, fine motor, gross motor, problem solving and social-emotional development.

The great thing about this questionnaire is that it is tested, reliable, easy to use and it teaches YOU as a parent what to look for and it can identify any potential for a delay early on, so that you and your child can get help early on.

This questionnaire is available to anyone with children ages 0-5 years. If you’re interested, call Help Me Grow (801-691-5322) or check out our website We’ll mail the questionnaire to you, you’ll complete it within the date range, you’ll mail it back, we’ll score it and then go over the answers with you and provide you with activities you can use in the home to encourage healthy development and answer questions you might have.

So, even though you may have kids that do projectile vomit, or have diaper explosions, or don’t sleep through the night, you can celebrate their progression in development because you will be able to recognize all the amazing things that they are learning and applying every day!



Be a snail.

Most people are drawn to cute and cuddly animals.

When I was a little girl, I loved snails.


They were plentiful in the tiny garden behind our flat in North London. The drizzly weather was perfect for snails who prefer overcast skies and lots of rain. I would garden with my mom, and collect snails in a little plastic pail. I was a great helper.  

One day, my mom put the "snail pail" in the alley next to our home so that the snails wouldn't get back in the garden. I was so worried when I found out. The building we lived in was so old, the walls curved in at the top. I was certain that those walls could fall down at any minute and crush the fragile shells of my snails. But I was also worried that I too would be crushed if I ventured down the alley. Finally, I steeled my will, held my breath, and ran to grab the pail. I got out of there as fast as my little four-year-old legs could carry me.

We made it! I felt like a hero.

A few years later, I realized that I shouldn't have worried. The walls were not going to fall down, and besides, the snails were actually more resiliant than I gave them credit for. When faced with extreme changes in climate, they can hibernate to survive. Some can live up to 25 years old. They can lift up to 10 times their own body weight. They have survived on this earth for over 65 million years! Snails have everything that they need to survive; it is part of their nature.


I think it would do us well to try and emulate snails. Like the snail, we are also resiliant. Even if it seems like the world could crumble around us, things usually aren't as desperate as they seem. We can be creative and resourceful as we face challenges. Or, if things get too tough, we  can wait for a better season. As a community, we've been able to come up with unique solutions in resopnse to challenges. The  Provo River Parkway bike patrol was created to curtail crime. The almost-destroyed Provo Tabernacle is going to have a second life as an LDS temple. Despite disaster, there is the hope for things to get better.

So the next time you see a snail, see him as an example instead of a pest!

*Snail facts found at this website*.


First Ever Orem Playgroup

Post written by guest blogger Jani C., United Way of Utah County's current PR intern

Join us at the first ever Orem playgroup on Friday, April 6.

Welcome Baby of United Way of Utah County is starting a playgroup to encourage Strengthening Families protective factors. This playgroup isn’t a one-time thing, it will be held every Friday at 10:00 a.m. at Kids on the Move in Orem at 475 West 260 North. So if you can’t make it this week, we will see you next time. There will be music, reading, crafts and snacks for children ages 3 to 5 and it is a great opportunity for parents to come and build a social support group with other parents in the community.

If you ever get overwhelmed as a parent, this playgroup is for you. Strengthening Families is a foundation that has partnered with United Way of Utah County. They have five protective factors that have been proven to build stronger families and promote child development.

First, parental resilience; this is finding ways for parents to solve problems and build trusting relationships with their child. Second, social connection; it is essential for parents to have a community of support. Third, concrete support in times of need; services are provided for families that encounter crisis situations. Fourth, knowledge of parenting and child development; informed parents can encourage and promote healthy development. Fifth, social and emotional competence of children; children develop when they can positively interact with others. Come on Friday to learn more about these factors first hand. See you soon! If you have any questions call Welcome Baby at 801-691-5320.


March's How I LIVE UNITED: Advocate

John Lewis, the associate advancement vice president at Brigham Young University, has been the BYU representative at United Way of Utah County for 10 years.


“Working at BYU, I am immersed in the educational setting all the time, and that strengthens my conviction for education.”


This summer, Lewis took on the role of chairing United Way of Utah County’s new education initiative EveryDay Learners. After the results from a community assessment, Lewis and other members of the education initiative spoke with local business and education leaders. He said that it was clear where United Way could have the biggest impact, preparing children in their first years of elementary to continue their education successfully.

“I have such strong feelings about the importance of education,” Lewis said. “I feel strongly that if we can do more in our home and neighborhood to prepare children for school and to help them succeed, everything in the community improves.”


He said there are two ways EveryDay Learners can help our community improve. “First, EveryDay Learners is something that raises awareness about the importance of education and consequences of education and how we can all pull together and help in this educational movement. Second, it becomes this facilitating arm that allows us to connect those who want to help and those who need the help.”


Lewis mentioned two ways for members of our community to get involved as an EveryDay Learner, signing up online as an advocate or a volunteer.


“One of the great things about EveryDay Learners is there is something for everyone. If you feel like you do not have enough time, knowledge or talents, that is OK. You can get involved on an

informal basis in your home or neighborhood. Any of us can do that,” he said about becoming an advocate. Or if you are looking for a more structured way to get involved, United Way is looking for more readers, tutors and mentors.


United Way of Utah County has announced a goal to have 10,000 members of our community committed to preparing our children to succeed in school by signing up on by 2014.


“I will be excited if we reach that goal,” Lewis said. “But I will be more excited if there is a buzz in newspapers that reflects a Utah Valley community that really understands the value of education and the impact it has on the future success of our children.”


Race of Life

This past weekend I put myself through the joy/pain of another half marathon.  I’ve wanted to do the Moab Half for a couple years now and finally got my chance.  Some of us drove down the day before the race and hiked in Arches National Park (you know that arch that’s on ALL of your license plates?).  It was 70+ degrees and heavenly.

Some really nice people let us stay at their house in ‘downtown’ Moab (I say that lightly since you can see everything downtown on one street).   They made us breakfast and took such good care of us.

The next morning we walked over to the park where the buses would pick us up and take us up the canyon. We had to wait a very long 2 hours before we were allowed to run!  Those 2 hours are great for second guessing yourself. But, eventually, they let us start. Those first couple miles are hard. No matter how long you train, your mind is quite good at psyching you out, telling you that you are too tired or can’t finish. 

Now, to my favorite part of the race (besides finishing).  Thee Moab Half planners are smart.  They recruit so many volunteers and place them throughout the race to help cheer you on.  There was such a diverse group spread out, including campers that just wanted to join in.  Here are my favorites:

·         The 60+ man who plugged in a FULL keyboard-still not sure he was actually playing a real song

·         The group of ten drummers-men, women, young, old

·         This random lady at mile 11 ½ who was screaming and clapping and cheering

·         The rock climbers who paused during their climb to cheer

·         The pace setters who cheered the entire time they ran. I would not be able to do that.

·         The teenagers who handed us water and Gatorade

·         The other 100’s of people who cheered, clapped, camped out, played music, handed out donuts, and ran alongside other runners

I was so impressed that these people felt like it was important for them to help and be there to provide encouragement. To me, this race does not compare to most hard things in life.  Yet, those people gave 5 hours (or more) of their time on Saturday to help others.

Most people do hard things on a fairly regular basis. BUT, they don’t have people cheering for them on the sidelines, telling them they only have one mile or 2 weeks left of that particular trial. I think that’s something I’d like to be better at and I hope that anyone who reads this will try and find family, friends, or even strangers to help through this race of life (good analogy, huh?!). 



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