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Women Who Inspire Us: Maria Burke

December 10, 2011

Spark. Some women just have it. After five minutes with Maria Burke, founder of WillPower Foundation, you know she's got it. Everything about her is fire--her energy, spirit, heart (not to mention that hair!). And she's found a way to share it with all of Western Mass. We think you should meet her:

Maria and her son, Will

Maria and her son, Will

How Did WillPower get started?
Our son William (Will) was born with a rare brain malformation that challenges him with physical efforts.  We found that not all equipment or assistance is covered under insurance which totally surprised us!  We held a fundraiser so that we could get an accessible van for Will’s power wheelchair and a dear cousin, Matthew Donohue, suggested we start a foundation to help Will in the future – and other families like ours.  So we did just that…and now the WillPower Foundation exists to lend financial assistance to families and individuals with little to none of the bureaucracy normally associated with this process.

Since its inception in 2008, the WillPower Foundation has granted over $55,000 to more than 60 families in Western Massachusetts to help them meet the varied needs of their family members.

What is your role with the organization?
As a founder with several others, I work to share information about the Foundation with any- and every-one, help with the application review process and participate actively in fundraising and as a member of the Board of Directors.

Can you tell us one of your favorite stories about how WillPower has helped someone?

My favorite stories are the ones where we helped one family and now that family is out helping others…whether it be the child who needed an evaluation to confirm his  diagnosis and now his Mom is very active in her local Special Education Parent Advisory Committee and helping other Moms and Dads in so many ways (she is SUCH a great resources for people in her community!) or the Mom who learned a multi-sensory teaching program so that she could teach her son to read (he is!) and now she’s teaching the program to another family so their daughter will read too.

What are some of the organization's goals for the future?
The WillPower Foundation is at a critical juncture right now – we want to grow exponentially so that we can help all who ask for assistance.  The number of applications is astonishing and right now, we fund as much and as many as we can.

What's the best way for people to get involved?

Spread the word, participate in fundraisers, and donate money!

Some upcoming events

Sunday, December 11th
Third Annual Your Friends Are My Friends Brunch
Eastside Grill, Northampton, MA
$35 per person

Call 413-244-3262 or go to www.willpowerfoundation.org for more details.

WillPower Night – Springfield Armor
Saturday, January 14th
MassMutual Center, Springfield, MA

For more details, please go to www.willpowerfoundation.org