Stephanie Parsons has faced challenges and tragedy in her life, but the mom of three and operations director of the Findlay Family YMCA has turned her trials into something positive to
A foundation of values
Stephanie attributes her success in life to the values that her parents instilled in her at an early age. Her dad taught her to work hard, to be dependable and to be honest and her mom motivated her to be a person of integrity who does the right thing.
Growing up in the small town of Columbus Grove, Stephanie learned leadership values through organized sports, which led to her passion for sports and wellness. She earned a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology at Bowling Green State University. Upon graduation, she worked as a physical therapist assistant for several years before taking a part-time position as a wellness coach with Findlay’s YMCA. Within a year, she was promoted to a full-time position. Today, as operations director, she oversees the day-to-day operations at both the East and Downtown facilities.
Building a family
Stephanie and her husband, Ryan, longed to be parents. The couple struggled to conceive and turned to adoption through foster care as a way to grow their family. While in the process of inquiring about the two children who would become their first adopted son and daughter, Stephanie experienced an unimaginable loss. Her mother and grandmother were killed in a car accident.
Stephanie was grateful that her mother was at least able to see photos of her future grandchildren before her accident. And despite the tragedy, Stephanie says she saw God’s hand at work. “Two loved ones were taken from me, but two more were subsequently given to me.”
The Parsons eventually adopted another son. Although she experienced a long and hard road, Stephanie says that the grace of God got her through and put the plan for her family in place.
A beam of light
As a foster parent, Stephanie saw the need for support of the foster community. Foster parents experience several struggles, she explained, including the emotional turmoil of having to say goodbye to children you’ve grown to love (this happened to her and Ryan), as well as the scramble of preparing your home for a newborn at a moment’s notice. Stephanie founded a nonprofit, The Beam of Light, to support local foster families. The non-profit is named after her mother and grandmother, whose last name was Beam.
The Beam of Light’s Project Alex partners with the Wish Boutique of downtown Findlay to provide clothes to foster families within 24 hours of an emergency placement. Project Eli will follow, aimed at helping foster families who receive an infant through emergency placement. Working with local hospitals, The Beam of Light hopes to provide these families with a “baby box” that includes a swaddle, bottles, pacifier, an outfit and diapers. Eventually, Beam of Light would like to provide car seats for the families.
Stephanie is quick to note that anything she has accomplished or any difference she has made isn’t about her, but rather has been done in the service of God. She continues to work hard, both at the YMCA and at The Beam of Light, looking forward to what’s to come and having faith in God’s timing and plan.
Q & A With Stephanie Parsons
What has been your strongest motivation?
My mom, she was my mentor. I respected her and the mother she was. She taught so much. I always wanted to please her because of who she was.
What’s next for The Beam of Light?
The Beam of Light has several other upcoming projects and they are all named after a family member or foster child who was in our care. Project Dax will provide foster care children, ages 4 and older, with bicycles. Project Lena will provide children in foster care with birthday boxes. Project Chris, named after my late mother, will be a mentoring program involving veteran foster parents and new foster parents.
Project Joanne, named after my late grandmother, will provide a care basket for foster parents after a new placement to help get through the first week.
How can people get involved with The Beam of Light?
Visit our Facebook page: facebook.com/TheBeamofLightFindlay. To donate or volunteer for the project of your choice, send a message.