11/08/2013 02:41 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Volunteer of The Year

Since 2008, I've nudged my mom with an idea: "I want to earn a volunteer of the year award." She'd smile with a gentle look on her face as if she were patting my hand in consolation. I was serious. I wanted to earn it. For my resume. For me.

My work with Suicide Prevention Services happened back in the days of the Crisis Line, circa 1996. My mom is the Founder and Executive Director. I volunteered at the hotline -- putting in more than 200 hours. It was fulfilling. Life got busy and my dedication deviated.

In 2008 I volunteered to redesign the SPS website and started up social media marketing for SPS. My son was two years old and I was a single mom. It was volunteer work I could do from home.

The website was completely re-created. It was the largest website I ever made with 68 pages. A Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel were created for SPS. I maintain each and have a great time doing so. I would attend all the events to take photos, and then make videos from the photos I took. It felt good. I was spreading awareness and amping up SPS.

These pieces did not earn me the volunteer of the year award.

This past year, I really threw my heart into everything. I felt good. Alive. I was motivated. The ideas kept flowing.

I made a video that I called, "The Power of One." SPS was in a spot (and still is) where we needed a funding boost. The video offered suggestions. We each have the power to do something to help.

The video boosted my own creativity. What could I do? I decided to rally with some friends and have a skylantern festival. I was prepared to have the idea shot down. It wasn't. It was lifted up and supported by the whole Yorkville community. I was beyond thrilled. The energy coursing through my veins was fantastic. I felt caffeinated without coffee. I could not wait to see how this would go.

The skylantern festival happened on October 6th. It was more than I ever could have imagined. It was the single most beautiful thing I have ever seen. I felt a click with both the universe and so many people who had finally had an opportunity to experience SPS. We raised nearly $5,000.

I got a text from my mom a month later: "If you were getting an award from SPS, would you want to know? Call me." I called immediately. She was in tears and explained I had been unanimously selected to receive the Phoenix Award for the Survivor of the Year. I couldn't speak.

"You're crying aren't you?"

Through tears, I murmurred a "mmmhmmm."

This was more than I ever expected.

I lost my Grandma when I was 3. My grief was secondary, as I witnessed my mom's world unfold. I learned who my Grandma was through stories and pictures. In working with SPS, I feel I have a relationship with my Grandma. Additionally, I love to work with my mom and SPS being that it is such a huge part of who she is. It is a way to honor the work I have watched all my life.

There was an older woman at Aldi last year who had forgotten her wallet. She was quite frazzled and on the verge of tears. I discreetly and quickly paid for her groceries. She cried. I left the store quickly and cried on the way home. I called my mom. A thought that ran through my head was what if my Grandma had had an experience like that before she died? What if there wasn't someone to step in and help? All these thoughts are helping me grow and understanding to better help others in the future.

I don't believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe the universe and angels send signs. I feel my Grandma had a hand in my award.

Thank you to all the wonderful people associated with SPS who inspire me everyday. Thank you to EVERYONE who tries every day, without letting go of hope.