PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — More than 125 nominations were submitted across Central Illinois to be the 2023 Remarkable Woman. We feature four finalists this year, one being Andrea Mercier.

Mercier is a softball coach, a mother of an autistic child, and an associate minister. “I only have one life to live and I don’t want to waste it focusing on myself,” said Mercier, an associate minister of connections at the Chillicothe Christian Church. “I want to give it away to serve and help others. I think that’s the calling that God has put in my life to serve, and just love other people.”

When Mercier found out she was nominated and ended up being chosen as a finalist, she was surprised and humbled.

“People appreciate my vulnerability and sharing my story and the journey that I’ve walked through over the past few years of difficulty and pain,” said Mercier. “And just opening up my life so that I can open myself up to more people and connect with more people.”

Mercier became a co-op softball coach in 2020 when her husband was deployed to the Army. She uses it as a way to teach young women how to work together to play their best, but also represent their best selves.

One of her players, Neveah Polk, said, “She’s a really good coach. She’s definitely one of the best coaches I’ve had in my whole softball experience. And she just made me love the sport a little more than I already have.”

Mercier sees coaching as an opportunity to, not only, invest in young girls but to give them life lessons.

“Life isn’t always about us, but it’s about something bigger than us. It’s about finding ways to encourage and invest in your team and your teammates when maybe that doesn’t actually help what you would like,” said Mercier.

One of the most important things in Mercier’s life is family and community. “We’re better when we’re together as people, right? When we’re encouraging and loving and serving each other. I think we have healthier communities and we have healthier families and we have healthier young people, and that’s a really beautiful thing.”

Friends and family of Mercier said that every challenge she’s faced, she’s dealt with them head-on, turning every difficult situation into a positive one.

“Life is a challenge. She sees that with her son, who’s severely autistic. It’s a tough road. So when you don’t take yourself too seriously and you have some fun and enjoy life, that makes it better,” said Senior Minister at Chillicothe Christian Church Bob Hentrich.

Hentrich explained Mercier brings out the best in everybody. “We have some excellent, excellent leaders in our church, men and women both,” said Hentrich. “I think the thing that makes Andrea rise above that is her drive, her enthusiasm, her love for God, and her love for people.”

Mercier hopes her story can lead others to help when they have the means to. “We have so much to give our communities. I would love to see more women stepping up and serving young people or elderly or the disabled, whatever it is, whatever need there is in their community, whatever passion that woman has. Find a way to use it to help somebody else.”