Emily Borenitsch and her husband Jim moved to Waunakee 10 years ago. Little did they know then just how important this move would be for their family in the future.
“We were looking at a number of communities in the Madison area,” she said. “We first fell in love with a house in Waunakee. Then we saw here a real community feel and lots of amenities.”
That was before their two children were born and before schools were top-of-mind. Yet it’s the schools that have proven to be perhaps the greatest blessing for their family. After their now-7-year-old son Elliot was born, fate brought them a second child with very special needs. Daughter Eva is now 4.
“We will be eternally grateful for the schools,” Borenitsch said. “We have found the district has provided us with things we didn’t know we’d ever need. Without the support of the schools here she may not have been able to thrive like she is.”
Borenitsch is Employee Wellness Manager for UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospital and clinics. She coordinates employee wellness strategy, program development and implementation. Previously she was with UW Madison University Health Services and Dean Health Plan.
She’s been at UnityPoint Health for a year and a half and is very proud of the results the organization already is seeing in employee wellness.
“I love that it’s not a traditional employee wellness approach. There’s a focus on building a culture that supports well-being, including a sense of belonging in the workplace. In the past year we’ve seen a decrease in overall health risk indicators. To see our staff get healthier in a relatively short period of time is really exciting,” she said.
Borenitsch grew up in Whitewater, where her father was a family practice physician. She attended UW-Madison, majoring in Spanish and biology, planning also to be a physician. However, she found her passion lay in how to improve the health of entire populations, and she was fascinated with promoting good health. That led her to seek a master’s degree in public health.
She chose the University of Arizona.
“I wanted to use my knowledge of Spanish language and culture. I also had interest in immigration health and health care relating to border issues,” she said.
She and Jim moved back to Wisconsin after graduation. They loved the Madison area, wanted to be closer to family, and “missed four seasons,” said Borenitsch. After moving from their first house near the high school, they now live in the Northridge neighborhood.
Jim is a self-employed tech entrepreneur and a “big golfer.” Their son Elliot will be a second grader at Prairie Elementary, and daughter Eva is starting 4K.
Eva has Rett Syndrome, a neurological condition. She has no verbal communication and some significant gross and fine motor challenges.
“It’s relatively rare, and there is no cure. But there is some amazing research that suggests that in her lifetime there might be,” Borenitsch said.
But rather than see this as a burden, Borenitsch focuses on the positives.
“It has brought us more than we ever could have imagined, for example, patience. It has slowed us down--in a good way—so we pay attention and savor the moment. It has also made us excited about the little things: climbing steps on the slide is a huge deal and we cheer.”
As a family, they love to travel and try different places each trip.
“We want both our children to live exciting lives so we focus on experiencing things. With Eva, it sometimes it takes longer or more planning, but it’s worth it,” she said.
It’s helped her at work to better understand challenges families go through. Conversely, her work experience has helped her coordinate the best care for her family.
“The health care system can be really challenging to navigate,” said Borenitsch. “We need to make health care accessible to all and bring down barriers. I think of my daughter’s health care journey. If I didn’t know what I know about health care, we might have gone a different path and that might not have been the best one.”