Resident Feature

Meet the Schniegenbergs: Making Each Day A Gift

  Little did Christina know when she took a trip from her home in San Diego to visit a friend in San Francisco that she would meet her future husband while having a drink at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub. It was 2004 and Christina’s friend happened to go to college with Greg who met them at the pub that night. As soon as Christina and Greg met there was an instant connection. “We both knew there was something there between us, something special, but I lived in San Diego and Greg lived in San Francisco. We didn’t see each other again for a few months, but when we did we knew we didn’t want to go that long without seeing each other again. From that moment on we spoke and emailed everyday and made flights every other weekend back and forth between the two cities. Luckily, flights were $39 each way back then,” says Christina.

After a year of long distance dating, in 2005 Christina made the move to Walnut Creek, and Greg and Christina married in 2008 at The Harvest Inn in St. Helena. “We had our perfect wedding in the vineyards, very intimate with only 70 people that played a special role in our lives. We had a live event artist paint the evening and we have that painting hanging in our house to look at and remember forever,” says Christina.

Greg grew up in Euclid, Ohio. He graduated from the University of Cincinnati with a Construction Management degree. From a young age he enjoyed building things and knew construction was his calling. His first job after college was with Helix Electric in 2000, and he is still with the same company 20 years later. “One of my favorite sayings is you can’t boil the ocean all at once, you have to do it one cup at a time. In life people make the mistake of setting really big goals and only focus on measuring themselves against it, too often failing to achieve it. What motivates me is winning at achieving a lot of smaller accomplishments every day that will eventually produce exceptional overall results for my team and the company. The most rewarding part of my job is when people are engaged, driven and have pride and purpose in what they do to the point it does not feel like work. We only have so much time to enjoy life, so I put a lot of energy into loving what I do and to lead my team to do the same,” says Greg.

Christina grew up in Niles, Michigan and graduated from Kalamazoo Valley College with a Respiratory Therapy degree. They both moved to San Diego in 2000 and had the same circle of friends, but never met. In 2001, Greg was transferred for work to the Bay Area and Christina followed after their relationship developed. “We moved in together and lived in Walnut Creek from 2005-2010. In 2010, we moved to The Bridges in San Ramon and then finally settled in Blackhawk in 2014,” says Christina.

The Schniegenbergs have two children. A seven-year-old daughter, Morgan, and five-year old son, Colton. Christina shares that Morgan suffers from a rare syndrome that has come with many struggles but has made the family stronger and appreciative of every moment they have together, “Our daughter Morgan suffers from a rare catastrophic epilepsy, Dravet Syndrome. We started a charity in her name after her diagnosis, The Morgan Amelia Foundation to improve the lives of all children with this syndrome. We purchase life saving medical equipment for families that are not covered by insurance. Dravet Syndrome affects 1:15,600 people, is extremely debilitating and has a 20 percent mortality rate before adulthood.” Morgan attends the Special Day Classes at Bollinger Canyon Elementary. She is unable to walk or talk but loves her special needs bicycle and the beach. Christina says the family learned of the diagnosis before Morgan’s first birthday, “Morgan’s diagnosis was shocking, to say the least. She had only had three seizures prior to being diagnosed. We had very high hopes that she would overcome this and live a normal life. She was not on any pharmaceuticals for years, her seizures were fairly controlled and she was walking and talking. Then the seizures became uncontrolled and nothing seemed to be working. The more she had, the more skills she lost. From the beginning, we took this as a sign to do something positive from a negative. Sometimes when things in our own lives are difficult, we find joy and comfort in being able to help others who may be struggling with this syndrome. Nearly all Dravet family units are broken from the stress of living this life, for us it has brought us closer and stronger as a couple, parents and a family. We have learned to enjoy every moment, live in the now, and take nothing for granted. If you are a special needs parent, you need a support system of parents going through the same things you are. No one understands what this life is like, other than those going through it with you. Today there are so many organizations for nearly every syndrome, find one and get to know those around you. It’s probably what has gotten me through the last few difficult years.”

The family moved to Blackhawk, in the Pepperwood neighborhood in 2014. They needed a single level home and Christina says they found their dream home, “We love our neighborhood, it is quiet and peaceful and we are surrounded by nature. Our neighbors are a huge support system for us; they understand Morgan’s issues and are always offering help in any way possible.”

Five-year-old Colton attends Sycamore Valley Day School and is active in junior golf through Blackhawk Country Club, swimming, basketball and gymnastics. “Colton is the most amazing little brother. He loves to help with his sissy as much as possible, and it is going to shape him into a person who will care for others with disabilities,” says Christina.

Christina and Greg say their family motto is Amor Fati, which translates to love of fate. “We never expected our daughter to have a life altering condition and it has made us better people in the end. We’ve learned to enjoy every moment together and every day is a gift. We are grateful we have been able to turn a negative into a positive and help others through our foundation.”

By Megan Scott, Resident since 2010