The Arc Minnesota honors the many parent advocates who have been part of our community since we were founded 75 years ago. This Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating several moms who have been powerful change-makers in Minnesota and beyond.
Today, we honor Debbi Simmons Harris – former Board Chair of The Arc Greater Twin Cities, and current Board member of The Arc U.S.
Debbi’s profile as a member of the National Alliance of Caregivers (NAC) notes that her youngest son, Josh, “was born eight weeks early, an example of the disparities occurring in medical care for African American mothers in pregnancy, labor and delivery. Josh had a Grade IV brain hemorrhage at birth” and was given just days to live. 30 years later, Josh is thriving at home with Debbi and their family in Eagan.
NAC goes on to share that “other than caring and managing her family, as well as an ICU-level nursing staff in her home, Debbi is… a family navigation specialist for Family Voices of Minnesota; a family leader for the Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network to Advance Care for Children with Medical Complexity; and, a Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs National Research Network partner. Debbi is a public policy advocate as well, working with the national Workers Advisory Group for Paid Leave and the National Caregiver Advocacy Collaborative of the National Alliance for Caregiving. She has [been] published in Today’s Caregiver magazine, Kaleidoscope, Existere—-Journal of Literature and Arts, at Salon.com, JAMA Pediatrics as a co-author, and has co-authored a manuscript on COVID-19 and children with disabilities to be published in the Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine.”
Beyond her many incredible contributions to the disability community, she is a great mom. Debbi’s oldest son, Nick – a member of The Arc Minnesota’s former Adult Sibling Advocacy Network – had this to share:
“Her compassion for others and her selflessness are so unique and inspiring. She genuinely cares for others and it shows in all of her daily actions and dedication to her family and friendships.
My family wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for my mother. She has been the backbone and glue since I was born. Guiding us through my father being gone for war, navigating 2 boys in college, handling every single curveball and situation you can possibly think of when it comes to the complexities of having a son with disabilities. She has been a super woman in every single way and is such an incredible woman to me.
My mother inspires me because she doesn’t ever seem to quit or let anything keep her down for the count. Even through stress, anxiety, the challenges that life presents to her as a mother of a disabled child, and everything else, she never gives up and continues to find that spark of hope and momentum to keep going and keep showing up for her family, friends, and colleagues in the incredible way that she does.”
Thank you to Debbi, and all the moms in The Arc Minnesota community, for your fierce love, unshakeable dedication, and powerful advocacy!