When her son was diagnosed with autism at age 2, Lori Cairns’ life changed, but she never imagined it would change as much as it has.
“Getting that diagnosis is extremely devastating,” the Ahwatukee Foothills resident said. “The psychiatrist that diagnosed him said he is moderately autistic, moderately mentally retarded, and that he’ll probably be in a mental institution by the time he’s a teenager. I just thought, ‘That’s not acceptable.’ It took me a couple days, obviously, but I just decided we’re going to make sure he’s the best he can be.”
Cairns built a team of psychiatrists and counselors for her son, James, and by the time he entered kindergarten he was able to go through school unassisted. James, now 17, is about to graduate high school and plans on going to college next year.
Because of the success with her son, and also because of the challenges she faced getting there, Cairns began the H.O.P.E. Group, a qualified vendor with the state of Arizona to provide in-home respite and habilitation and consulting services for kids with autism. Cairns says the company has about 600 clients statewide and 500 employees.
On top of running the H.O.P.E. Group, Cairns recently opened Naked Pizza in Ahwatukee. She says the two go hand-in-hand because many autistic children need to be on a special diet, and Naked Pizza provides fast, all natural food for just about any diet.
Now, Cairns’ journey, as well as the journey of many other female Phoenix entrepreneurs, is being put into a lifestyle show, which producers hope will make its way soon to the public.
“The show is the opposite of reality TV,” said Yakeima Yarbrough, who is part of the production team. “It’s a documentary of very successful women who are not just wives, not just mothers, that are not just single, but women who really come from triumph after tragedy. I think sometimes we think of tragedy as losing everything but having that momentum to keep going, that’s what the show is about.”
Filming for the pilot is set to begin soon. Shelley Lynn Productions is producing the show, which is the untitled Tonya Allen project. The suggested titled is "Surviving and Thriving, a series about hope, love and life.”
Tonya Allen, CEO of Nella Entertainment, got the inspiration for the show by looking at the women she knew in Phoenix.
Allen, herself, plans to be a part of the cast. She is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse. Now she’s Mrs. United States Global, and uses her platform to teach about childhood sexual abuse.
Other stories include Brenda Combs, a woman who was homeless for 10 years before going back to school. She now holds a doctorate degree and teaches at Grand Canyon University. Brenda Bridges was abused to the point where she was told she'd never have children. She's now three months pregnant and married to Arizona Cardinals player Jeremy Bridges.
Cindy Christi and Rachelle McCray will also be featured on the show. Cindy Christi is an on air personality and media producer as well as an executive director of Get Image Ready and Fine Wine and Design. McCray is the owner of Shelley Lynn Productions, a model, former NFL cheerleader, Miss Arizona United States and was just nominated Most Fashionable in the Valley Under 30 for Arizona Foothills Magazine.
Stay tuned for updates at www.nellaentertainment.com.
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