In It for the Long Haul

Michelle Slavens, newly “promoted” to Vice President of On Angels’ Wings in addition to her Support Coordinator role, reflects upon her nearly nine years with the organization, and her hopes for the future.


After nine years with On Angels’ Wings, I’m stepping into the role of Vice President and reflecting upon my journey with the organization.

God brought me to OAW at a time when I needed it the most. In 1995, my husband and I lost our first daughter who was just five months old. I remember a story I saw on social media from one of the OAW photographers – I had gone to school with her sister-in-law – this story touched me. I remember seeing a post for open board member positions in the Springfield area. I looked at the website more and saw a recipient named Araya and I was drawn to her story and the mission of OAW. I felt this strong connection and couldn’t stay away from their Facebook page.

I talked to my husband about applying for the Recipient Liaison position and he gave me his blessing so I applied. I remember praying over my application and I was so nervous for my interview. At the time there were only three other board members and at the interview they made me feel very welcome.

I remember being so nervous waiting to hear from them, but Michelle Cramer called to tell me I was in. I knew in that moment God had a plan. I became very attached to sweet Araya, going to visit her and her parents whenever I could. I needed her in my life for so many reasons, too many to explain, but God knew her presence would start to help me heal. In that moment I knew I was where I needed to be: to be there for our families and to fight for these precious children.

I transitioned a few years ago to Support Coordinator, working directly to support each family as time allows. I have watched our organization grow so much over the past nine years, and though I find myself not having enough time to meet all of our recipient families, I pray for them. It warms my heart to see each precious child’s photograph who goes through our organization and the time our volunteer photographers put in. To walk this journey with these families who are grieving the loss of a child, or spend every day caring for their child who continues to fight a difficult medical diagnosis. To give these families encouragement and offer support brings me peace.

In 2020, Michelle Cramer presented an opportunity for both of us to become Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialists in order to provide recipients with more dedicated grief services. I look forward to each opportunity to help our families through the grief recovery process. It felt so important to add this to the services we offer, but also for me personally. I went through the program personally too as part of training, and it made a significant impact on the process of grieving my daughter, even 25 years later.

Going through the process myself helped strengthen my relationship with my husband, Tim. It allowed me to start opening up to him about how losing Kaycee felt, something we had barely talked about in 25 years. We became closer than we had ever been over the last two years, which was a blessing I didn’t know I needed. On January 7, 2022, my husband of 32 years passed away from Covid.  He was my biggest supporter for my involvement with OAW and he knew it was my passion.

Additionally, to finally have a physical location where we can meet with our families, which we opened in 2021, has been a huge accomplishment. To see where we started compared to where we are now, I know God has been with us every step. It was a leap of faith to open a location, but we just pray about everything we do and watch the blessings reap abundantly.

Now, nine years into this journey with On Angels’ Wings, I see God’s purpose in the timing for everything, including the grief program and in the timing for me becoming Vice President. I would have never thought of taking this role before now.

The timing is just right though. I feel so joyful for what is ahead for the organization. As VP and Support Coordinator, I strive to be there for our families and let them know they’re not alone, to give our families every resource we can to help them along their journey. Every gift or card I send to our families I pray over each of them and that brings me the greatest joy. I am honored to step into a new role along with my dear friend Michelle Cramer, doing what we love and serving this community.

Michelle Slavens shares images from her years with OAW!

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