The one thing you would say to other parents with
children with special needs
Michele: It's a long and hard road, but don't
ever give up.
Pete: Don't be ashamed of it. Seek out help
and talk to other men going through this. It's something that some
men feel sometimes ashamed of or `Oh my God, it's horrific, how am
I going to deal with this? How are my guy friends going to look at
me?' My advice is to lean on other dads.
Pete: It has opened my eyes to have so much
more compassion for all families that have special
Michele: You learn to appreciate the small
things in life. When you see progress, enjoy the moment when you
reach a goal. ...We get excited about a lot of small
Pete: Hearing the diagnosis.
Michele: We try not to think about those. As
a mom, you have this idea of how you are going to raise your child
and the things you want them to excel at. ...Then that realization
that your dreams you had for her are gone, but I don't say that
anymore. I still have dreams, maybe they are adjusted, but they are
not adjusted too much.
Michele Doyle is a glass-half-full kind of mom. Husband Pete is
a glass-half-empty kind of dad.
But when it comes to their daughters Kiera, 9, and Caelan, 11,
who was diagnosed with autism when she was 5, they have put their
halves together to fight autism.
Six years ago, at a time when many people's only frame of
reference for autism still was "Rain Man," the Doyles threw a party
for family and friends to educate them about autism and raise money
for other families trying to do the best they can with a disease
that now affects 1 in 50 kids. They knew only too well about the
looks parents with children with autism get and the struggle to pay
By year three, that party, Rescue Our Angels, became the largest
non-corporate fundraiser for Generation Rescue, of which Evergreen
Park native and actress Jenny McCarthy is the president. This year,
the sold-out party raised $200,000.
"We were like the little engine that could," Pete says. "It was
almost like a pay-it-forward. We're going through our journey and
our journey is going pretty good, but there are a lot of people who
are struggling, so let's try to raise some money and help
He credits Michele with the success of the fundraiser and in
their personal autism fight. They consider Caelan recovered.
Caelan was born three years after they married. "Everything was
fine. We were trying to be the best parents we could
be," Michele says. Around 16 or 18 months, Caelan stopped
talking. Though she started early intervention at 2, the family
didn't have a diagnosis. That came years later.
"I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason," Pete
says. "I think for us as a family, it certainly was devastating
initially, but I think through the process and through the years,
it has opened us up. One is the compassion for any type of child or
any human being who has any type of special needs."
Helping Caelan recover became a full-time job, even though both
parents work full-time and are raising Kiera. They took away gluten
and casein and the family now eats organic meats, fruits and
vegetables. They also did chelation after tests showed Caelan's
body was full of metals.
"It's been long and challenging and rewarding all together. For
myself, it puts the world in a different perspective," Michele
says. "You look at life differently and you enjoy the little
To learn more or to donate, visit rescueourangels.com.
Tamara is the editor of Chicago Parent and mom of three.
See more of Tamara's stories here.
Let us plan your weekend with the best family events and activities in Chicagoland.
Start the week right with deals, prizes, parent life hacks and more delivered straight to your inbox.
Need last-minute ideas for a weekend of family fun? No worries. We've got you.
Get the inside scoop on the people, places and things we are loving right now.
Resources, tips, inspiration and more for parents of children with special needs.
Score exclusive offers from our fabulous advertisers.