Local mom honored for helping families cope with congenital heart defects

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On this Mother’s Day, a local mom is being recognized for helping families going through the most difficult times of their lives, all while being an example of adversity on her own.

Now, she’s being honored by Albuquerque Mom’s Blog as Mom of the Year.

“Leslee is my hero,” said Brittany Behenna Griffith. She said meeting Leslee Schneider was a blessing during an incredibly difficult time three years ago.

“May 17, 2015, my first baby was born Liam and we had known from our ultrasound at 20 weeks that he would be born with several congenital heart defects,” she said. 

Shortly after Liam was born, his health declined. Despite efforts to save him and open heart surgery, “the first time I held him in my arms was right after he passed,” Griffith said. 
 
She found support in a national congenital heart defects walk, organized in Albuquerque by Schneider.

“She had put that together which was a real blessing to me and my family at that time,” Griffith said. 
  
Griffith and Schneider became close friends bonding over their shared experiences.

Schneider learned at  24 weeks that her own daughter Lexi would be born with the left side of her heart not fully developed. 

“I had to just trust that God had it under control and we were going to make it through and if she didn’t make it which we knew was a possibility, he would take care of us,” Schneider said. 
  
Lexi, now 4 years old, has since had three open heart surgeries. 

“Oh man, she’s a firecracker. She is our little fighter,” Schneider explained. 
  
Schneider says families who have gone through these things need all the support they can get but last year, the Albuquerque walk ended.
  
“We have to keep going, we have to keep supporting the families that are in Albuquerque,” Schneider said. 

So in February, Schneider and Griffith founded Lexiam, a non-profit that provides financial help for families, support groups for parents and raises awareness about congenital heart defects. 

“She’s a superhero I don’t know how she does everything that she does but she has a big heart,” Griffith said about Schneider.
  
A local mom whose had to be strong for her little girl, making sure other families have someone to lean on. 
  
“I used to wonder why God picked us to do this, why my kid had to go through all these hardships and then I realized it’s so that I could help other families,” Schneider explained. 

ABQ Moms Blog is also recognizing two other local women as ‘Moms of the Year.’

Christina Beppler is a scientist at Sandia National Laboratory and created the “Sandia Parents Group” to improve the work environment for parents. 

Heather Esqueda, a mom of four, active volunteer and member of the Firewheel Collective: Women’s Cooperative Farm project.

She also founded the first all women’s mariachi group in Albuquerque, Flor Del Alma.
 

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