Montana Recycler Earns Well Deserved Reward
Sabrina Wisher, of Wisher’s Auto Recycling in Kalispell, Mont., was named the 2014 Montana Mother of the Year by American Mothers because of her efforts to raise money for families with disabled children, something she knows a lot about.
AUNDREA MARIE PHOTOGRAPHY
Sabrina Wisher’s license plate could be her personal mantra. It reads NoGvnUp (No Givin’ Up), a tribute to the daily blessing in her life, aka daughter Mikayla. Sabrina has spent the past 23 years caring for Mikayla, who is unable to speak, walk or feed herself. The experience not only has shaped Sabrina’s positive outlook on life, it’s earned her a coveted title, Montana Mother of the Year by American Mothers.
“I was very, very surprised and a little overwhelmed,” admitted Sabrina, upon hearing about the honor. “I hung up the phone and thought, I’m not that extraordinary. This is what I do; I don’t do it to win an award. I am who I am because of Mikayla, because of all of my children.”
Mikayla is the oldest of four, which also includes a brother Hunter, 16, and stepsiblings Audrey, 22 and Steel, 21. “Each one of my kids is different, but one thing for sure they know is that my love for them is unconditional,” said Sabrina, who is now a single mom. “The sky’s the limit in our home. I put absolutely no limitations on my children.”
That includes Mikayla, born with Aicardi Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects mostly girls. Mikayla wasn’t supposed to live past a year. But in May, she celebrated her 23rd birthday and enjoys a quality of life that - given her limitations - is quite astounding. Sabrina has taken her hunting, fishing and four-wheeling. They share a special bond that only comes from spending 24 hours a day, seven days a week together. When Sabrina takes Mikayla shopping, for example, she asks which color shirt she prefers. Mikayla answers with a look.
Two to three days a week, Mikayla accompanies Sabrina to work at Wisher’s Auto Recycling, where Sabrina is office manager. Wisher’s is the family business, started by Sabrina’s grandfather Clem Wisher and now owned by her father, Jerry Wisher.
“Mikayla brings joy to everyone who comes to the yard,” said Sabrina. “It’s amazing how many people she has been able to touch without saying a word. She talks through her eyes and her smile lights up a room.”
Even so, it hasn’t been easy. Before the age of five, Mikayla was in and out of the hospital 44 times for pneumonia. That doesn’t include the incredible dedication it takes for her daily routine. Mikayla’s day starts at 3:45 a.m. with tube feedings, followed by seizure medications and bathing.
There were other challenges, too. Because of Mikayla’s seizures, there was a danger that she could get caught in the rungs of the hospital bed where she sleeps. And a normal bed wouldn’t prevent her from falling out. So Sabrina requested a special SleepSafe bed from Medicaid. The cost was $9,000, and she was denied - four times.
“They told me I should just put her on the floor,” remembered Sabrina. “That was not an acceptable answer.”
Sabrina worked with friends, inspired by the story, and they raised $26,000. SleepSafe was so touched by the story that they ended up donating the bed, which was a sign to Sabrina to pay it forward to other families struggling with disabilities. She started buying beds and other equipment to help. She set up a foundation in Mikayla’s name, www.mikaylasmiraclesandblessings.com, which continues to raise money for these endeavors. “I always tell people that I have wings, and I’m going to save them all,” said Sabrina.
Wisher’s Auto Recycling also does its part. Sabrina’s brother, Shane Amundson, along with her dad, purchases vans that they give away to needy families. “We go through a program called the Child Developmental Center,” explained Sabrina. “They write letters and send pictures, and then we choose a family to get the van free and clear.”
It’s no wonder that all of this good work came to the attention of Governor Steve Bullock, who nominated Sabrina for Mother of the Year. She’s thrilled and honored, especially because it helps call attention to the needs of special needs children.
“They deserve quality of life, to be able to do the normal things,” she said. “Each day is so much work for Mikayla to get through and yet she does it with a smile. It’s one reason that I never give up.”
Sabrina reads from one of her favorite poems, posted on Mikayla’s website. “I thought I had to teach my daughter about the world. As it turns out, I have to teach the world about my daughter. They see a girl who cannot speak; I see a miracle that needs no words.”