Though heartbroken, Debbie moved forward through her grief and continued her efforts to serve her family and community. In 2004, Debbie headed up a fundraiser that generated over $100,000 for four schools. Together, the family has served the people of Honduras, building homes and schools, and teaching piano and English. In Mexico they delivered supplies, served the elderly in rest homes, and built houses. And on the home front, they raised money for the Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Mesa United Way.
In July 2004, Debbie was named the 2004 National Parent of the Year. Sherrie Nattrass, a teacher with the Center for Empowerment, nominated Debbie, including in the nomination packet tear-jerking letters of love and awe from Debbie’s seven children. In Sherrie’s letter to the National Parents Day Coalition she remarked that Debbie “has been a beacon of light, a source of strength, and an example of courage as she has championed her children and others in her community to be their best regardless of the circumstances.”
Debbie is the first single parent to be honored as National Parent of the Year. Previous to this honor, Debbie was named Arizona’s 2003 Parent of the Year, and in September 2004 she was granted one of five Connie Payton Embrace Life Awards from State Farm Insurance Company. The award was accompanied by a $5,000 cash prize, which Debbie used to establish a BYU Signature Scholarship in her husband William’s name.
Debbie has also fostered this drive to serve in her children. Five of the seven Forrest children have served in student government positions, in addition to participating and organizing their own selfless acts of service. They all credit their mother for her support, inspiration, and love as they continue to live lives steeped in service and hard work.
For 2005 Debbie will continue her fundraising efforts for schools, continue as a den leader, and enter her fourteenth year as “neighborhood captain” over four hundred homes. She will host an educational fundraising event for United Families International in April to advocate the Marriage Initiative. Anyone wishing to donate to this cause can do so at [unitedfamilies.org] or P.O. Box 2630, Gilbert, AZ 85299-2630. Her primary focus this year will be to continue speaking to groups and organizations teaching principles of character development and how families can become families of character. Debbie believes strongly that sound character strengthens relationships and helps unite families enabling them to reach their full potential. Anyone interested in receiving information on the program can e-mail Arizona State Treasurer David A. Petersen at [firstname.lastname@example.org.]