The Gilmore Family- ST. ALOYSIUS SCHOOL
Story by Erin Foley
“I love the sense of family and community that St. Al’s brings.”
-- Sandra Gilmore

The Gilmore Family, St. Aloysius School

At her day job, Dr. Sandra (“Sandy”) Gilmore is a vet – the kind that cares for your pets. What her patients at Coble Animal Hospital may not know, however, is that she’s also a military ‘vet,’ having served in the U.S. Army since 1998. From that time until 2009, she was a member of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 1/106th AVN, working as an aviation supply NCO. While in this unit, she met her husband, and also served in Iraq from 2004-2005. She then became an officer in the U.S. Army Reserves in 2009 as a member of the 445th Veterinary Medical Detachment from Independence, Missouri. She deployed to Kyrgyzstan with them in 2013 and is still serving with the unit.

It can also be said that Sandy is a veteran runner, because in four years she has run in four half-marathons, five marathons and countless 5K races. Perhaps the title she likes best, however, is Mom. Her sons, Nicholas II (eight/third grade) and Sullivan (six/second grade) are both students at St. Aloysius, where they have been since kindergarten. Nicholas enjoys science and Sullivan likes math. Both like playing with their dogs, participating in soccer through the YMCA and taking gymnastics through Extreme Air. Sullivan hopes to wrestle through SHG’s grade school program this year and Nicholas wants to try hockey. Their most rewarding activity has been competitive swimming at the Y as members of the SPY swim team. Nicholas qualified for the state competition for backstroke in 2015 and both boys have won in competitive youth triathalons in their age group twice.

Sandy grew up in a small town called Oquakwa, along the Mississippi River in Illinois. She attended Southeastern Community College in Burlington, Iowa for two years before transferring to Western Illinois University. She then earned her DVM from University of Illinois in 2005. Her husband Nicholas was raised on a farm south of Jacksonville. He attended Our Savior School in Jacksonville, and then Routt High School, graduating in 1999. During his senior year, he decided to join the Illinois Army National Guard, and went to Basic Training & Advanced Individual Training that summer in Ft. Jackson, South Carolina. Once he returned, it was already mid-semester, so he delayed going to college and began working full time at Camp Lincoln. Later that year, at age 19, he moved to his first duty station in Chicago. He spent six years there, went on two deployments, and while on a mission in El Salvador, he met Sandy, already a practicing veterinarian in the area where he grew up (Ghrist Veterinary Clinic in Pittsfield, IL).

“One thing led to another and the next thing you know, I was transferred back to Springfield and we were married” says Nicholas.

Nicholas spent five years in Springfield, during which time his two sons were born, and he then was transferred to Decatur, where he is currently stationed. He is in a program called Active Guard/Reserve where in addition to normal Guard duties, he also works throughout the week as a Readiness NCO, responsible for the training, administration, and supply of the traditional Guard soldiers. He is also a Detachment NCOIC, which is the highest-ranking non-commissioned office within the Detachment, in charge of eight other subordinate NCOs and over 20 soldiers.

Since 2012, the Gilmores have been members of St. Aloysius parish. Nicholas is on the school board and Sandy is a member of the PTO and co-director of Charger Dash 5K. She also assists with October/Fall Fest and is a room parent to one of the children every year.

Being away from her family was difficult during Sandy’s deployment in 2013. She was not Catholic at the time, but she was drawn to Mass celebrated by a priest from St. Louis. Spending time in prayer every Sunday brought peace and strength.

“The school and parish have moved me in ways I cannot explain and in 2014, I went through the RCIA program and made a commitment of faith for not only the Catholic Church, but for St. Al’s” she says.

“In the beginning, it was the close proximity of the school to our home [that made it a good choice]” says Sandy. “Now it is the bonds that we have formed. I deployed in March of Nicholas’ kindergarten year and his teacher, Mrs. Denise Reavis, went above and beyond to love and support him during this time. When my husband is away on training, there are always friends from St. Al’s that are willing to help.”

“I am grateful that Jesus has led me on this path. As a young woman, I never imagined my life as it is now. I did not expect to meet my future husband in the Army, yet Nick was placed in my path at just the right moment. I am blessed with two children – and one on the way. I was told that I would never have children without the intervention of modern medicine, yet God saw it fit to prove the docs wrong..”

Sandy had always prided herself on being strong and able, and was active and healthy, except for the mysterious reason for not being able to have more children. While aspiring to qualify for the Boston Marathon, she became ill and experienced chronic pain during training, which resulted in a strange form of kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome. She was ill for over a year and still struggles with poor stamina and pain. Five months after she was deemed ‘cured’ by the kidney physician, and about one year after being unable to continue high mileage running, she decided to run a marathon on her 37th birthday. She trained well, but she felt tired again, accepted it and pushed on, finishing slightly slower than normal. About a week later, she felt symptoms of nausea and lightheadedness. She soon discovered that she was five weeks pregnant.

“Through my endless struggle to become well, my body was just waiting. Waiting for the right time to show me that all was not lost and God was about to bless me in more ways than I could have ever hoped. My body may not do what I want it to do (run the Boston Marathon), but it will do what God wants it to (carry another child). It taught me that no matter what I think I am going through, there is a bigger plan and I must be patient and listen” Sandy says.

Not having grown up with a ‘faith mentor,’ Sandy developed her own ideas of God and Jesus. She did not know the community that is available through a parish. She didn’t know that she could pray through the hard times, or that there is someone that will always love her, forgive her, and give her all she needs.

“I want my children to hear this every day of their lives…to know that prayer is always there, that the love of Christ is never ending” she says.

In the meantime, she has told her children that their potential is limitless and that she will always be there as their "rock" and "sounding board," and that she and Nicholas will give them every opportunity to explore their strengths and weaknesses.

“The only thing I know is that they will always have a faith-based education, and I will do everything I can to ensure that St. Al’s is part of that education.”

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