A bridge for Chattanooga families who have children with special needs

Lisa Mattheiss was nominated for Pay It Forward for her contributions at LifeLine Families. (Image: WTVC)

Getting the diagnosis your newborn child will have special needs, can be overwhelming for some parents.

However, a mother in Chattanooga says learning about Spina Bifida inspired her to find resources for her daughter, and years later, her knowledge evolved into a non-profit.

In this week's Pay It Forward, Jessica Harthorn shows us how LifeLine Families is creating awareness in the community.

The plan was to surprise Lisa Mattheiss while she was at a meeting in Chattanooga.

She planned to train doctors, helping them to understand what challenges parents of children with special needs face outside of the hospital.

But when we arrived, we caught her waiting for the meeting to start in her mini-van, oblivious to what was about to happen next.

"On behalf of Newschannel 9 and the McMahan Law Firm, I'm Paying It Forward to you, for your many years of service to this community, and all the special needs kids and their families who have to navigate through the school system. You work tirelessly and endlessly and it's much appreciated. And you are loved by people you don't even know. How about that?" surprised Joyce Herzog.

"I need to get out and give you a hug!" said Lisa.

"You can do that. I like hugs! Thank you for not leaving. God bless you girl," said Joyce.

We watched as Joyce Herzog gave Lisa Mattheiss a big bear hug.

As a special education teacher, Joyce tells us that over the years, Lisa's non-profit, Lifeline Families, has been an incredible support system.

"As much as she helps other people, she's also someone I can lean on," said Joyce.

Lisa tells us her daughter Emily is her inspiration. Months before she was born doctors diagnosed her with Spina Bifida.

"Questions come to mind, can I do this? Do I have to do this myself?" said Lisa.

Lisa says the more she learned, the more she wanted to help other families in need of resources too.

15 years later, her non-profit offers educational tools, support groups, and parent-mentor programs for families who have children with special needs.

"It is an honor to serve other families affected by disability, and take our experience and circumstances we've been through and share it with others," said Lisa.

And her daughter is her biggest fan.

"I love you," said Lisa to her daughter.

"I love you too mommy," replied Emily.

Do you know someone who is deserving? Nominate them here.

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