Nicole & Christopher's Wishbook Story

Cian and Jeannette McKenna want what’s best for their adult
children who are nonverbal autistic.
The couple wants to make sure their children, Nicole Helbig and Christopher Helbig Jr.,
can get items this Christmas that will help them with their development and keep them

Cian and Jeannette were married in 2020 but had been together since 2013. Cian, their
stepfather, has been in Nicole’s and Christopher’s lives since then and sees the two of
them as his own children.

Christopher and Nicole go to New Hope Services every Tuesday for therapy that works to
help them get more engaged and become more verbal with people around them.
New Hope Services began in 1958 when a group of Clark County parents met to help
support and incorporate their children with developmental disabilities in local society.
Today, it works to meet the needs of the individuals, families, and seniors in the area.
Christopher is 24 and loves sports. He can participate in any sport and he will be able to
play. Every week he goes to New Hope’s recreation therapy to explore his love for sports.
Nicole is 21 and loves to sing. She goes to music therapy every week. At New Hope their
behaviorist plays into their strengths.

“The kids are amazing with their therapist,” Cian said. “They absolutely enjoy it.”
Their therapist has almost become a part of the family because of how much time is
spent with Christopher and Nicole.

Cian and Jeannette try to keep the two of them occupied as much as they can. Nicole has
a karaoke machine that she sings with and Christopher has dice, dominoes and PlayDoh.
“He’s (Christopher) very creative when it comes to his sports, he makes his own,” Cian
said. “Whenever we’re at restaurant he would take a piece of straw paper or whatever and
he plays soccer with himself… to watch him do that is hilarious. I’ll ask him who’s
winning and he goes ‘Me.’”

On top of taking care of their two children, Cian and Jeannette also babysit for Cian’s
sister’s three children and drive them to school. With that many people in their car, they
are running out of seats. Jeannette works evenings in Louisville and Cian takes care of
Christopher and Nicole as well as his sister’s children.

Not only are they running out of seats, but they are also having car problems. Their van
needs a full tune-up, new battery and new rear brakes.

“We finally got the front brakes fixed because they sounded like birds,” Cian said. “Now
the back ones are starting to grind. We didn’t have money to get both sets fixed… It’s like
we’re just trying to play catch-up, I need to get everything done.”

The family has a Christmas tradition of everyone making their own Kool-Aid pies and
they get to eat them as a dessert.

One year, Nicole chose grape Kool-Aid for her flavor. They went to Cian’s sister’s house
later and she made the mashed potatoes purple potatoes.

“She thought she was getting her grape Kool-Aid pie,” Cian said. “She took a great big
bite and the look on her face was just utter disgust.”

The McKennas are working on creating other family traditions as the years go by. This
year, Christopher will help Cian make the glaze for the ham and the two kids will make
cookies with their grandma.

For Christmas this year, they want items for their children that will help them further
their development.

“If we can get them things that will help with keeping them busy, development of using
their words, just getting them moving… I would be happy,” Cian said.

If Nicole has music that will get her up and dancing and Christopher has something that
will help him get away from his desk and play in different areas, Cian and Jeannette
would see this as a successful Christmas.

For Christopher, they are looking for LEGO car models, six-sided dice any color, Play-Doh
or modeling clay and more. Nicole would like snow globes, instruments, music books,
Disney dolls and more.

Cian and Jeannette would like some fabric and craft supplies as well as home needs such
as laundry detergent and paper towels.

“As long as they’re happy, I’m happy,” Cian said.

*This story was written and published in partnership by the News & Tribune
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