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Karlee and her family lounging in one big chair. Photo courtesy Washington Department of Children, Youth and Families

Walking the talk of inclusivity | Unsung Hero

Karlee Rakes creates community for her child with special needs

Seattle’s Child is proud to partner with the state Department of Children, Youth and Families Strengthening Families Washington to honor outstanding caregivers doing important work on behalf of children. Throughout February, we’ll introduce you to Unsung Heroes from around the state: biological parents, grandparents, foster and adoptive parents. Some volunteer at local schools; some have started nonprofits; some mentor others in their communities. Enjoy the stories of 2024’s unsung heroes. 

NOTE: Seattle’s Child is running these stories unedited, as written by the people who nominated them, in keeping with the DCYF Unsung Hero process.

Karlee Rakes, Belfair

When I met Karlee, she was 19 years old with a history of childhood trauma but working through the issues. Tens years later, Karlee has three children, one of them with special needs – the child is nonverbal, needs full 24/7 care, requires g-tube feeds and weekly therapy, and frequent trips to the doctor, ER, or surgery. Karlee has grown into a strong advocate for her family. She learned to drive, speak up, and research treatments to improve her daughter Gabby’s quality of life. 

Karlee has advocated for her child to receive services in a rural county that is limited to what they offer children with special needs, and she often needs to update those services. Karlee is willing to talk with, support, and give hope to other families just starting the journey of having a child with special needs. Due to the complexity of her daughter’s health, Karlee is unable to work outside the home. 

She is active with her two other children and their activities, including Gabby as much as possible in these outings. Gabby is a part of our family and community because Karlee includes her in all activities, from camping to being a cheerleader at a game to just sitting in on a scout meeting. Karlee has learned how to talk about Gabby and what her diagnosis means and to share her uniqueness.

— Janet Wyatt

More Unsung Heroes:

New foster parents navigating with love

Katrina Peters has G.R.I.T.

Mom of four promotes self care

A loving, resilient mom giving it all

A new mom helping other new moms

About the Author

Seattle Child Staff