VAIL — Diane Dike hit the trifecta, sort of.
May is National Mobility Month, Vasculitis Month and Foster Care Awareness Month. Dike hit all three: The disease, the foster home and the mobility challenges. Still, she has so much positive energy that she makes the Little Engine That Could seem like a total drudge.
“Life is a roller coaster, and we’re riding it with arms stretched high!” Dike said, laughing out loud.
Dike and her husband, Paul, have the only foster home in Eagle County. She’s been nominated as a Local Hero for National Mobility Awareness Month.
If she wins, they get a minivan, and they could really use it. For now, Paul has to drive their foster kids everywhere.
The van would be fitted with hand controls so Diane could drive it. She’s been in a wheelchair for 23 years after she was struck down with Cryoglobulinemia Vasculitis, a painful blood disease.
“It was such a blessing to be nominated in the contest,” Diane said. “It is a big goal for me personally as well as for our outreach work.”
Dike spends more time on the road than anything not named Firestone. Besides driving their foster/adoption kids around, she said they’ll use the van for their nonprofit, the Cryoglobulinemia Vasculitis Organization.
Laurie Thomas lives in Illinois and nominated Diane for the Local Hero award by submitting one of her YouTube videos.
“Diane isn’t just a local hero, she is an international hero,” Thomas said. “It’s amazing how she overcomes the challenges of living with disability, and still helps people.”
Diane is regularly featured on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Mystery Diagnosis show in an episode called, “The Women Whose Legs Turned Black.” Diane’s legs were almost amputated when they turned black.
But miracles happen.
Her legs returned to normal size and color, but due to the damage and need to keep her extremities safe, she uses a wheelchair that keeps her legs elevated.
It doesn’t slow her down much.
“I even work in my sleep,” she said. “The other day I woke up laughing about a banner for our Dr. Diane Dike Radio Show that I was designing, in my sleep.”
Diane’s mother died Feb. 18, 2010. Two days later, her best friend died. Feeling sad and alone, she said she began to think about children who are orphaned and need to be adopted or need foster care.
She and Paul have no children of their own, but she spent 12 years as a professor and school teacher, teaching all grades and subjects to students who included severely disabled, blind, deaf, autistic, Down syndrome, cocaine babies, several abused and juvenile delinquents.
In all her spare time, she coached swimming and track, and she earned a Ph.D. in human services and counseling psychology.
In November 2010, she talked with Paul about becoming foster parents. Paul is a sensible man and had many excellent reasons why this was not a good idea. Not the least of which was that Diane wasn’t healthy enough, and of course finances.
They prayed about it and one day Paul came home and said, “OK, go for it!”
So they did.
They learned that there were no foster homes available in Eagle County, or Garfield and Pitkin counties.
They say it’s been everything they knew it would be: Time-intensive, costly and emotional — wonderful, memorable and it filled their home with healthy and loving family memories.
“One day when I’m gone, our children, those we foster for a while or those we give forever homes to, will know their mom loved them, and they will be sure to pass along that transforming love,” Diane said.