About the Foundation

The Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope is a registered non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The foundation was established and named in honor of our beloved mother. She was the personification of love with a servant heart. For many years, she fought a rare form of cancer with courage and dignity. At the age of 38, she lost her battle, leaving six children (Michele, Suzy, Ken, Beth, Cheryl & Andrea) motherless, ages 7-16. Although we only had our mother for a short time, she taught us well. Her loving and compassionate spirit lives on in each of us. Our hope is that this foundation creates a legacy that would make her proud.

The foundation was created to offer mentorship and scholarship opportunities for motherless daughters. By developing a nurturing and compassionate relationship, these young ladies will know that they have hope and a future to make their dreams a reality. We want to empower them through encouragement and love; relaying the message that their circumstances do not define them. These young ladies have the ability to be all that God created them to be.

Board of Directors

Michele Feyen


On Nov.7th, 1974 the electricity went out at my high school. Everyone was sent home mid-morning; how random?? Maybe not; I got home to find my aunt in the kitchen. She said everyone was at the hospital with my mom. I immediately got on my bike, with 2 almost flat tires, and rode as fast as I could to the hospital where my mother had been for a few weeks. She had always returned home over the past 5 years after being hospitalized; but this time something felt different. When I arrived, I threw my bike down, ran up the stairs to her room, immediately sat beside her and gave her a kiss on her cheek. The next part is etched in my mind forever. After I kissed her, I grabbed her hand. A tear rolled down her cheek and her hand went cold. The lines on the monitor went flat and everyone in the room started wailing. It took me a few minutes to understand the gravity of what just happened. As a 16 year old, I was devastated but also felt an incredible responsibility for my 5 younger siblings. Going back to school was so difficult. I felt lonely and as if I were the only person in the world without a mother. I became “mother” to my younger siblings which was self-imposed. I cleaned house, made the meals, took them to church, to the doctor, to the emergency room and on and on. As a high school junior, I also had a dream. I wanted to go to college and be a doctor. My father encouraged this but it was clear that I would need scholarships to pay. After graduating Suma Cum Laude, I received several scholarships which made it possible to achieve my dream. As the Founder of the Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope, my desire and passion is that every motherless daughter will have a mentor to encourage her to achieve her dreams and that she would know that she has a hope and a future.

Cheryl Washburn


It was less than 2 weeks after my 10th birthday that my life was forever changed when my mother passed away from cancer. At the time (it was 1974), I felt as though we were the only family without a mom. This was the first time I experienced death and I’m not quite sure how long it was before I realized that my mom would not be coming home. I guess because I was younger when my mom died, my true grieving period came later when I began to realize all the moments that I would miss with my mom; she would not be at my graduation, no shopping and lunch dates with her, I would not have her to help me navigate relationships or careers, she would not be at my wedding, nor would she get to see any of her grandchildren. Having 5 siblings to lean on and confide in created a bond of support and validation that helped me to cope with this loss. In my mother’s short lifetime, she was only 38 when she died, she was able to build a strong and loving foundation for her 6 children and for that, I am grateful. Through the Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation, my hope is that we will not only give motherless girls comfort for their grief and feelings, but also give them validation that they are not alone on this journey. I have been where they are and I know from experience that with guidance, patience, love and a support team cheering them on each step of the way, these girls can succeed in achieving all that they are hoping to be and all that they have been created to be.

Elizabeth Gonzalez


Over 40 years ago, at the age of twelve, I can remember very specifically the worst day of my life. The day I would never again physically see my Mom. I was in class when an overhead paged, “send Beth Gonzalez to the office prepared to leave school”. The first words out of my mouth were, “my mom died” (I didn’t know what cancer was and had no clue that she was that sick, let alone dying). My words were verified when I saw my brother walking up the hallway crying, hearing my sister scream on the other side of the building, and the extreme look of sadness on my Dad’s crying face. Anger and bitterness towards God started brewing. The “comforting” words of people were “God needed her”. What part of that makes sense? Zero to me, I needed her!! My mom loved Jesus and lived like an Angel on earth with kindness for all. So that kind of comfort didn’t set well with me. Life as I knew it would never be the same. It took a lot of wrong turns and trials to come to the realization that I’m not a bad person; simply one that had to find my way without a loving, nurturing, and encouraging mother by my side. I have a beautiful soul and a kind heart and so much to give- all qualities my mom instilled in me during her short time on earth. Yes, life’s trials and tribulations may have been easier to navigate if that day never happened. But, through the roller coaster of life, I’m so grateful that my mom’s giving soul and heart lives on through her six children and beyond through the Foundation of Hope. God’s grace brought me to this day and season of my life. What better way to celebrate life than giving hope to other young ladies who have experienced the loss of their mother. Reaching out to that young “12-year-old” feeling hopeless and lost, letting her know she is loved, is a unique and special child of God and doesn’t have to take the back roads to her dreams. That she has hope and a future.

Suzanne Borg

Board Member/Dir. of Mentoring

On November 7, 1974 leaving for school, dressed in my green and white Hornets cheerleading uniform I decided that I was going to be “brave” and let my coach know I would not be cheering that day. I wanted to go visit My Mother in the hospital. I never had the chance to be “brave”. I was called down to the office over the loud speaker during one of my classes. I knew. I calmly started walking to collect homework from my seven classes, delaying the actual reality of hearing I was too late for my visit. Screams ensued when they found me wandering the halls and told me My Mother had died. How does a 14-year-old process death? Mothers DO NOT DIE! So my journey to navigate loss begins. We had no therapy, no guidance, no direction. Being the 2nd oldest, I helped my oldest sister with taking care of 4 younger siblings. We had each other. We lived out being Motherless the best & only way we knew how. One day at a time. My journey over the last 42 years brings us to why BDG Foundation of Hope is at the core of my heart. I learned many years ago to be grateful for the 5,324 days I had with My Mother. I was blessed to know what Love felt like. I look forward to bringing my experience of loss, pain and healing to Motherless Daughters through guidance, empowerment, purpose, goals and most importantly, LOVE.

Advisory Board

Andrea Pigott

Advisory Board

Losing my mom at the young age of 7 brought a unique heartbreak because I was too young to understand the devastating loss and how my life would be impacted. My mom was sick most of my life but I didn’t know it. She would go away for a while but she would always come home so I didn’t know that death meant my mom was never coming home. At the time I don’t remember being sad or scared. As I grew older I started feeling the deep sense of loss. I was jealous seeing my friends sharing special times with their moms that I would never have. Having children of my own is when I truly realized the depth of a mother’s love and what I had missed out on. Also, the realization of how profoundly sad my mom must have been knowing she would not see her children grow up is extremely painful for me. I want motherless daughters to know that they have someone to talk to and to share their feelings with because I have experienced the same grief and devastation. It is my hope, through the Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope, to give love, guidance and encouragement to motherless daughters so that they know they are not alone.

Keshia Wilson

Advisory Board

I was born in West Palm Beach, Florida, where I spent my childhood as a Floridian. My dad had a career in retail and my mom in education. I have a brother in retail and a sister who is the Chief Assistant District Attorney in West Palm Beach, Fla. I am married with a wonderful husband, and an amazing daughter that loves Christ, school and tennis! I graduated from Florida State University in Tallahassee Florida, where I studied Fashion Merchandising and Business. Choosing retail as my career of choice, I grew a large passion for the business side of Retail and Fashion. Following college, I joined JCPenney as a Management Trainee and was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work in several different locations which gave me great insight into how the business worked and to be successful. Ultimately, my experience in stores and passion for the customers led me to the JCPenney Corporate office in Texas in 2001! I held several buying positions at JCPenney and in 2009, I was promoted to a Divisional Vice President of Merchandising. After 17 years and a very successful and rewarding career with JCPenney, I decided in 2013 to make a career change to join Payless Shoesource. This was both a life changing and pivotal time for me because I was leaving friends, mentors and a great company. However, the opportunity to go to a company whose mission is to bring value and fashion to families that have a lower income level, was a dream come true! In the midst of my success and less than a year into my move to Payless, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a very scary time for me, but my faith and family kicked into over drive to get me through it and I have been blessed to be cancer free for 6 years! . Out of that experience, I decided to increase my focus on guiding my daughter to live in faith, pride and to give to others. I had also been looking for the right opportunity to continue to share what I have learned from my mom, mentors, life and faith with others, when I found the Bettie D. Gonzalez Foundation of Hope! Its a great new chapter of my life and without a doubt will be one of the most rewarding!