Charlotte Deleste ’90
Charlotte was nominated by: Ron Giordan, Rose Cantillon ‘90, Amy Ryan ‘90, Christopher Altruda, Justin Sage, Beth Viney, and Adam Schrager
After graduating from Ursuline Academy, Charlotte attended Marquette University where she studied communications and journalism and met her husband, Ron. They reside in Madison, Wisconsin.
Their son, Gio was born with unimaginable health challenges in 2005. He suffers from multiple seizures each day and requires specialized care to assist with his physical, emotional, mental and medical needs. Because of his rare seizure disorder, Gio has faced 3 brain surgeries and multiple other surgeries. He is non-verbal, partially paralyzed on his left side and on the autism spectrum.
Realizing the challenge of not having a facility or even a resource to provide therapeutic respite care especially for children ages 0-6 years old, even for an hour, was disheartening. The list of challenges was long and the number of available resources was nonexistent. At one point they were staggering their work schedules so someone would be home with Gio, but this left no time to get groceries, sleep, or spend time with one another. While trying to apply for disability they were told he was “not disabled enough” to qualify for home nursing care. The Delestes knew other families were also facing challenges like their own.
This gap needed to be fixed and Charlotte did what had never been done in the United States. Charlotte and Ron began the tireless effort to form their own non-profit, Gio’s Garden, to provide professional respite services to families with children with special needs. It isn’t a daycare, it is a caring home with professionally trained staff, who work with children from birth through age 6 on every aspect of their well-being, care and development.
In 2018, Gio’s Garden celebrates its 6th anniversary and continues to serve families in the Madison community. Gio never actually received services from Gio’s Garden. Since their doors opened, they have provided an average of 1,100 hours of respite care per month to over 100 families, as well as resource services, therapy and family programs. Charlotte spends countless hours in fundraising and awareness to keep the services affordable for stretched families. Charlotte receives frequent emails of gratitude thanking her for saving their marriage, their family and for just understanding what it’s like and “being there” when it was most needed.
In addition to Gio’s Garden, Charlotte is wholeheartedly engaged with the Madison community as the primetime anchor for WISC-TV News 3. Because of her compassionate spirit, rooted deeply in our Ursuline motto of Serviam, her focus is to host a monthly feature of those in the community that truly make a difference. Charlotte thought this could be her way to counter all of the negative news in the world. Charlotte’s “Top Notch Teacher” segment features area teachers who are nominated for their extraordinary efforts, approach to teaching and positive relationship with their students.
In addition, Charlotte began a segment called “Do something good” which is a monthly highlight of an individual or cause which truly exemplifies the human spirit.
When Charlotte was a morning news anchor, she would end her broadcast with “Have a great day and do something good” and she often heard from her viewers that they took her up on her challenge.
Charlotte has taken the Ursuline selfless call of Serviam to heart by creating a family resource in Gio’s Garden and continues to spread this spirit through her career, as a mother to Gio and Benicio and as a dedicated and heroic wife. She is a force of difference in people’s lives and has changed how her community views special needs families. She lives by Jesus’ commandment of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Her husband Ron wrote, “the education at Ursuline Academy has provided her much more than ‘learning from books’; it is an education of a well-rounded individual who shows compassion for others and builds bridges in communities to bring people together.”