In 2008, inspired by the birth of their daughter Aubrey who has Down Syndrome, Mark and Amber Leck started the United Angels Foundation, a non-profit parent-to-parent support group whose primary purpose is to support parents and families of children with special needs.
When their daughter Aubrey was born, Mark and Amber were 24 and 23 years old respectively. Despite having all the routine pre-natal examinations and tests, the fact that their first baby was going to have Down Syndrome went undiagnosed. The day their daughter Aubrey was born, they were both shocked to discover she had Down Syndrome. This unexpected news, of course, was difficult to receive for the brand new parents. Fortunately, within a day or so of delivery, and while their daughter remained in the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit), a caring nurse named Kathy came to talk to them. She introduced herself by explaining that she was a nurse at the hospital and had heard that they had just had a child born with Down Syndrome. She wanted to introduce herself, because she also had a child with Down Syndrome. She then went on to explain that she knew exactly what they were going through as a couple, and encouraged them that this was going to be one of the greatest blessings in their life! Kathy was able to answer key questions for the couple that physicians, geneticists, and other specialists were unable to answer because they weren’t a parent of a child with Down Syndrome. This visit from Kathy provided a real positive paradigm shift for the couple during what was a very difficult time.
Inspired by this visit, and the realization that not all parents who have children with special needs are so fortunate as to meet their own “Kathy,” Mark and Amber decided to start a foundation to help provide parents who have just received a diagnosis with the opportunity to meet with a parent who has a child with the same or similar diagnosis. While starting the foundation, Mark and Amber weighed heavily the decision of making this a condition specific organization (for Down Syndrome, because of our daughter Aubrey). At that time, Mark ended up having a discussion with his friend, Grant Bigler, who had a child with an extremely rare birth defect, and discovered that as parents they both experienced the same emotional roller coaster despite their children having unique diagnoses. As a result of this visit, the couple decided to broaden the scope of the foundation’s outreach to include all special needs. This decision has resulted in the foundation supporting hundreds of other families who might not have otherwise been supported, and although they never expected this choice to benefit their own family, it has…
Only a few years later, one of Mark’s siblings had a child born pre-maturely, and was eventually diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. Because of that broader mission, Mark’s sister and their families were brought together, united if you will, by United Angels Foundation. This has given Mark and Amber as well as Mark’s sister’s family first hand experience seeing the benefits of sharing knowledge across these different spectrums and helping each other through their journeys (a key philosophy behind the foundation). Of course, their families view that fateful decision as a miracle that has brought them all closer together.
Mark and Amber currently reside in Springville, Utah, and are the proud parents of three beautiful children.