Yadira Galvan took matters into her own hands when she was unable to find adequate resources for her children, who have special needs, in Washington

By Char Adams
November 02, 2018 03:18 PM

Yadira Galvan didn’t know what to do when her daughter, Diayanesis Ramirez, now 16, was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder at 3 years old. She struggled to find resources for the little girl in Kennewick, Washington, and experienced even more difficulties when her sons, Damian, 14, and Joshua Galvan, 13, were diagnosed with autism at 3 years old.

So, she took action.

“We didn’t have all the programs in this community that a child would need as they transition from toddlers to pre-teens to teens, says Galvan, 38, one of PEOPLE’s 25 Changing Women Changing the World. “So I was trying to find a way to create the services that a child would needs and that other children might need as well.”

Yadria Galvan (right) with her children
| Credit: Courtesy Yadira Galvan

In 2009, Galvan started a small support group for parents of children with special needs. As the group grew, she and a few other parents quickly realized that they needed to do more.

“People needed connection to services, someone to walk them down what their child needs,” Galvan says. “It went from being a support group to being an actual organization that was providing other services. It was just a group of moms that got together and said, ‘Hey, we need to make a change.’ ”

For full coverage of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday

Credit: Courtesy Yadira Galvan/Family Resource Center of the Tri-Cities

That summer, Galvan launched the Family Resource Center of the Tri-Cities. The Kennewick center offers everything from educational training and hygiene programs to summer camps and family movie nights for low-income families and children with special needs.

One of the center’s most prominent programs is their annual Christmas situation, in which families enjoy a dinner and children with special needs get customized gifts and photos with Santa.

“This will be our 10th annual Christmas and it’s designed just for families who have kids with special needs,” Galvan tells PEOPLE. “It’s not just about the gifts, but you can see the emotion in the child when they receive something they enjoy.”

As Galvan prepares for the center’s anniversary next year, she says government officials are hoping for the center to expand to other counties in the state. Her children also help with the center, and Galvan says seeing her kids and other children getting the help they need is the best reward.

“It’s a beautiful feeling,” the doting mom says. “We’ve created an environment where families feel safe to bring their kids. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s rewarding. We’ve made a big impact on the community by creating these programs. I feel like this is what God put me on this earth to do.”