Carolyn St. Clair, 53
Founder of We Stop FASD, El Cajon, Calif.
When Carolyn St. Clair suspected that three of her four grandchildren had Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD), she felt angry and helpless. So she set out to learn more about the various disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. As her knowledge grew, she began offering workshops for at-risk families in seven states. Recently, she created We Stop FASD, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase awareness about the disorder.
Pat Owens, 67
Co-founder of GrandFamilies of America, Thurmont, Md.
Pat Owens has raised her grandson, Michael, since birth. Michael was 4 when she discovered he had an infant brother, but by then it was too late; the child was in the midst of being adopted by another family. Pat channeled her pain into advocating for a state law requiring authorities to notify relatives before placing a child for adoption and give family members priority if they want to raise the child. The law went into effect in 2005, but Pat kept pursuing her cause: She co-founded GrandFamilies of America and worked with others to have Congress enact federal legislation. In 2008, victory came when the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, which includes notification requirements for all states, was signed into law.
Debbie Melching, 53
Founder, Richland County Autism Awareness Walkathon, Mansfield, Ohio
Debbie Melching noticed something different about her grandson, Daylin, shortly after he was born. At 3, the child was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) — a situation that prompted her to start an annual Autism Awareness walkathon to raise money to help pay for services for children with autism. She has also helped create an autism support group that offers respite and activities for the families.