Months ago, Summer Zeringue McCune had to walk away from what she called her dream job, one that allowed her to do what she loved to do: positively impact the lives of children every day.
She found another way – and then another way after that.
The former Destrehan High School talented art teacher has raised over $10,000, and counting, for children battling chronic illness and if things break right, could be closing in on earning a prize of $20,000 that will go to the winner of the Women’s World Magazine’s Super Mom contest. McCune is one of 12 finalists among the more than 60,000 women considered in the competition, which is determined through voting and donations to hospitals in the Children’s Miracle Network.
McCune’s infant daughter Adler was diagnosed with a pediatric feeding disorder as a newborn and as a result developed a bottle aversion and refused all feeds. The situation demanded McCune be by her daughter’s side, and she had to leave her classroom at DHS – where she succeeded her own former talented art teacher from McCune’s days as a Wildcat student – behind.
“I became depressed,” McCune said. “I had to leave a job that I loved so, so much … I knew I couldn’t leave Adler in that condition. I was feeling so lonely. Going to medical professionals and asking for help, and they’re just as puzzled as I was. There’s nothing online that really guides you through this.”
In that darkness, McCune found a familiar light to guide her through it. While she could no longer teach her Destrehan students, she was able to put into practice a lesson she often imparted upon them: use your art as an outlet.
McCune founded NolaBee, a home décor business that showcased her hand-painted art, prior to Adler’s diagnosis. But she decided to pivot the direction of NolaBee from décor to pajamas – with each design representing a different child and their diagnosis, in order to raise awareness. Each set has hand painted patterns that are uniquely inspired from the stories of the pediatric patients NolaBee represents in order to spark conversations and provide a voice for those fighting medical battles. Each also comes with a card telling the story of the child who inspired the set.
She donates a portion of the proceeds from each set of the bamboo pajamas sold and McCune also has a spot on her website where people are invited to submit their children’s stories so that they can be represented in a future design. 80 children have had their stories submitted on her site.
“That’s one reason I’m raising funds … I don’t know how to say, ‘thank you for submitting your story, but it’s going to be years before I can afford to make this for you.’ I want to get their stories out there as soon as I can,” she said. “The prize money would be put toward the next children in the lineup.”
The idea for pajamas came to McCune as Adler would only feed in her sleep.
Her story has inspired many, as evidenced by the tidal wave of support she’s received.
She hopes that potentially winning the contest would allow Adler’s story to touch even more people, this time on the national level. All of this began during a time McCune wasn’t sure where to turn to find answers, and even if those answers aren’t all that much clearer today, she’s found comfort in sharing stories with the other parents.
“It’s like you’re teammates,” McCune said. “When you have a child with special needs, it’s a whole other level. People don’t know what’s involved until it’s you and your family. So, absolutely having that support means the world, knowing you have each other’s back.”
Votes and donations can be made until 7 p.m. Thursday at the website thesupermom.org/2023/summer-zeringue–mccune or via Facebook by scanning a QRcode that can be found on McCune’s Facebook page. One may vote more than once – one per day is allowed via Facebook while donors can vote an unlimited number of times.