Supporting Parents of Children with Special Needs and Medical Conditions: Spotlight on We Are Brave Together

Guest Blogger, Jessica Patay, Founder of We Are Brave Together 

“Moms often bear the brunt of the burden in managing family life, and because that burden is compounded in the case of special needs advocacy and care, many experience intense emotional and physical burnout. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of access to regular caretaking and therapies and homeschooling exponentially increased the need for support. It is for just these reasons that the workshops, resources, education, support groups, and network offers of We Are Brave Together became a vital (if virtual) lifeline for many moms across global borders.”

Founder and Executive Director, Jessica Patay, is a mother, wife, and advocate/cheerleader for caregiving mothers of children with special, medical, or extreme needs. She has been married to her husband, Chris, for 24 years and they reside in the Palos Verdes area of Southern California. They have two sons, Luke, 20, and Ryan, 18, and a daughter, Kate, age 15. Their second son, Ryan, was born with a rare, medically complex genetic disorder, called Prader-Willi syndrome. Chief clinical symptoms include an insatiable food drive (known as hyperphagia), anxiety, behavioral and intellectual impairment. Because hyperphagia is life-threatening, Jessica and her family must live with a locked kitchen, and be ever vigilant to protect Ryan from overeating into a medical emergency.

Jessica believes in the power of gathering to empower, strengthen and uplift moms in their unique, diverse, and difficult journeys. The journey to support and care for a child with additional needs is often a uniquely isolating experience, but, a few days into receiving Ryan’s diagnosis, a phone call from a local mentor mom at the Prader-Willi California Foundation gave Jessica immeasurable relief and comfort of knowing she was not alone in her experiences. This sense of community — this power of gathering — is something she’s been advocating for ever since.

Jessica likes to say We Are Brave Together was born out of a beautiful collision in her heart. Her passion for deep friendships and an understanding of the vital impact of supportive communities, combined with her experiences with special needs families ultimately inspired the creation of WABT.

We Are Brave Together is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to support caregiving mothers of children, any age, with any diagnosis, disability, or challenge, including mental health and educational challenges. Based in Southern California, WABT has an international membership. The organization launched in 2017 with a core group of 125 moms and is now 1,300 women strong. The intention and mission of We Are Brave Together is to help combat the isolation and compassion fatigue that these mothers face: providing virtual and in-person support groups, educational workshops, and low-cost retreats, and retreat scholarships. WABT believes that if they can empower, educate and provide a community for moms, they will impact whole families. WABT also offers the inspirational and resourceful podcast, Brave Together.

Currently, WABT hosts in-person satellite support groups in Palos Verdes/South Bay, Los Angeles, San Diego, Utah, Arizona, Tennessee, Kansas, New York, Florida, and Ontario/Canada. New chapters are also on the horizon in Texas, Idaho, and even Australia!

WABT also provides fathers with a virtual support group of their own every other month, and a new virtual support group exclusively for Spanish-speaking moms is being developed, as well.

Every gathering that We Are Brave Together offers is available to join through their website, wearebravetogether.com and is advertised on their Instagram page @wearebravetogether.

Jessica is a lifetime lover of words, credited with the superpower of honesty in truth-telling from the trenches of motherhood. She has been actively journaling and sharing her work for moms and Special Needs Moms since 2012, on her website, jessicapatay.com. She is also the host of her very own podcast on ApplePodcasts and Spotify, titled Brave Together. You can learn more about the show’s two seasons, read about each episode, and meet her guests through the dedicated Instagram page @bravetogetherpod. Jessica Patay is also a three-time alumnus with Expressing Motherhood — a stage show of storytellers and performers, all sharing stories about motherhood.

However complicated her altered motherhood journey is, Jessica remains firm in her belief that something beautiful can be born of chronic hardship; connection and community are critical to surviving and thriving in the midst of challenges. Because she has experienced the gift of a shift in perspective, priorities, and purpose, Jessica is passionate about sharing her life stories with complete transparency and vulnerability. She upholds and validates the moms of WABT, and creates a sacred sense of sisterhood and community.

If you are a caregiving mom anywhere in the world to a child of any age, with any diagnosis, disability, or challenge, you are welcome with open arms to connect today and become part of the supportive tribe of We Are Brave Together!