Bringing Hope...Changing Lives...Strengthening Families


From the ability to communicate to the ability to move independently, Family Hope Foundation’s Scholarship Program expands one’s range of abilities. Your donation will give “The Gift of Ability” by providing direct support to Family Hope Foundation’s Scholarship program. Each scholarship helps to shape a child’s future, offers opportunities for success, and strengthens families. Select the button below to make your gift. Every dollar donated makes an impact. Thank you for giving “The Gift of Ability.”  This is a priceless gift!


Nicholas Dood photo

Endurance With a Smile

At five-months-old, Nicholas was placed into the foster home of Teresa Dood and her two daughters. It was love at first sight when these three saw his sweet face and irresistible smile. As each month passed, Nicholas knit closer into the fibers of their family. He wasn’t a placement; he was a member.

As Nicholas grew beyond a year old, Teresa noticed delays in Nicholas’ speech and enrolled him into speech therapy. At two years, she noticed oddities in his movement and sought out a physical therapist, who after evaluating Nicholas suggested he see a neurologist.

It was in this window of time, that the rights of adoption became available. Soon after signing the intent to adopt papers, Nicholas had a neurology appointment at Helen DeVos, which lead to a crushing diagnosis. Nicholas had Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a degenerative muscle disorder that could take his ability to walk before his teenage years and could take his life in his twenties.

Heartbroken but more committed than ever, Teresa proceeded with Nicholas' adoption. She knew the road ahead would be hard, but she couldn’t imagine life without him or imagine not giving him the best life possible. At almost three and a half years, Nicholas officially became Nicholas Dood.

For the last 18 months, a nurse has come to their house to administer an IV FDA infusion called Exondys 51. This drug helps the body to skip over the broken gene in Nicholas’ DNA. This drug helps to slow the progression of the disease. It works for only 13% of boys. The Doods feel truly blessed because Exondys 51 is helping Nicholas. He is gaining more strength and has even been able to make small jumps!

Within the last year, Nicholas received the new diagnoses of ADHD and cognitive delays. These kinds of mental health challenges often accompany Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. In order to meet these new hurdles, Nicholas needed to see Dr. Beurkens from Horizons Developmental Resource Center. Since this holistic medicine wasn’t covered by insurance, Family Hope Foundation provided a scholarship so that Nicholas could receive LENS therapy (Low Energy Neurofeedback System) and new nutritional and behavioral strategies. With the help of physical therapy and holistic medicine, Nicholas continues to grow and develop skills he didn’t have before. Progress comes in small measures, but each new development is a gift. Each new movement is a gift.

Now at the age of seven, Nicholas is like most boys his age. He likes cars, trains, and being outdoors. He is happy and playful. Though he lives with daily pain and daily challenges, Nicholas doesn’t give up. He has endurance. If he falls down, he gets right back up. And he does it all with a smile.

Ruby Austin2

A Pint-Sized Bit of Rhythm

Good things often come in small packages. That was definitely true of Ruby Austin. Born on January 23, 2018 weighing just 5 pounds 6 ounces, she was a happy baby, loving life and enjoying the world around her. Ruby formed an instant attraction to music, but this is no surprise as Mom and Dad are musicians and singers. As soon as she could hold a musical toy Ruby joined in with the rhythm.

Ruby’s development in personality and pep were humming along; however, her muscle tone, vision and focus had some catching up to do. At four months of age, Ruby was first diagnosed her as hypotonic (excess muscle tone), and testing showed both microcephaly (abnormally small head) and Leukoencephalopathy (decreased white brain matter). While they have yet to receive a definitive cause for Ruby’s delays and impairments, she recently received a diagnosis of hypotonic cerebral palsy.

To help Ruby advance and build up her strength, the Austins brought her to see Rene’ Manker at Senses in Motion. Here she received a form of therapy called Anat Baniel Method (ABM). This therapy treats Ruby’s whole body as an interconnected system and incorporates the brain to stimulate new learning. While very effective, ABM is not covered by insurance. Rene’ introduced the Austins to Family Hope Foundation where they received a scholarship. This support allowed Ruby to continue with therapy and lifted some of financial burden.

ABM Therapy is opening new doors for Ruby. She is able to play and reach from a seated position while supported, roll to her side and put weight on her legs while assisted, chew and drink, have more control over her vision and focus, and experiment with motion in her hands, arms and legs. Ruby has grown much more adept at engaging with the world around her and more purposeful in her exploration of it. These movements are now part of her everyday routine, and her skill in them has grown along with her comfort.

With the help of ABM, Ruby can get back to doing what she loves to do…interacting with family and friends up close and personal, playing with toys, and of course, making music!

Ruby is not afraid of new things and seldom gets frustrated by limitations. She has a zest for life, laughter, and silliness. Even though Ruby is nonverbal, you can bet she knows how to express herself, from hums and excited hand waves to shrieks and squeals. Anyone with an ear for harmony knows that Ruby is making song. It just goes to show…you do not have to be big to make a mighty melody.

 Eliana Wetters 2

An Answered Prayer

At age five, Eliana flew from Ghana to live in Michigan with her new family. Her nickname, which she prefers, is Kosie. It is similar to her Ghanaian name, Akos. The meaning of the name Eliana is “God has answered.” To her parents, Eliana Akos Wetters is indeed an answered prayer. She has filled their home with joy and brightens a room with her smile.

Since day one, Kosie has had plenty of energy. She loves to swim, take walks, and dance to music. Disability has never made her unable! She takes in life to the fullest with her vibrant personality, a blend of sassy and oh-so-sweet. Being “non-verbal” doesn’t hinder her from self-expression.

While the Wetters knew Kosie’s original diagnoses of cerebral palsy and microcephaly at age five, they didn’t quite know the depth. After Kosie was settled at home, they were able to set up appointments for therapy and treatment in order to help Kosie continue to learn and progress.

Her pediatric neurologist suggested hippotherapy, which is the use of horseback riding as a rehabilitative treatment for improving coordination, balance, and strength. Most parents of children with special needs can attest that therapy comes at a cost and some therapies, like hippotherapy, are not covered under insurance. That is why a scholarship from Family Hope Foundation was a wonderful gift to Kosie. She was able to go to Renew Therapeutic Riding Center where she’s ridden—Dailee and Honey—the past couple of years. Not only does Kosie love riding, but it has also strengthened her core and taught her new things.

Eliana Akos is now 9 ½ years old. She is doing great and growing like crazy. In this, we see yet again, the truth of her name.


Willaim Del Raso

Never Lose the Wonder - A Story About William Del Raso

William Del Raso is a curious little guy. Maybe that is why he decided to enter the world extremely early and surprise his mom and dad. In spontaneous fashion, Will arrived, weighing in at 1 pound 11 ounces. His twin brother Chase followed behind him, 44 minutes later.

During Will’s 144-day-stay in NICU, the doctors discovered that Will had a brain bleed as well as hydrocephalus. He also went through several surgeries, the most relevant being his shunt placement. These were early indicators of the diagnosis that came two-years-later at Helen DeVos Developmental Clinic where Will was diagnosed with Spastic Quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy. While the cerebral palsy affects his whole body, his left side - hand, arm, and leg - are primarily impacted. Most recently, Will was diagnosed with epilepsy due to a new onset of seizure activity.

In an effort to help Will with his mobility delays, the Del Raso’s placed Will into physical and occupational therapy with Mary Free Bed and the Conductive Learning Center. Taking his growth, a step further, Will was enrolled into a full-time school schedule with the Conductive Learning Center. It was here that the Del Raso’s learned about Family Hope Foundation and the scholarship program. Will received a scholarship! This “Gift of Ability” helped the Del Raso’s pay for Will’s therapy.

Thanks to the scholarship for therapy, Will is learning how to use his body and mechanics effectively. He is getting better at four-point crawl versus combat crawl. He is using his left hand more and more. Although he does not walk independently, he sure wants to! For the Del Raso’s, they are blessed to watch him learn new things and make his own adaptations.  

Despite the struggles and hard work, Will remains kind, polite, and happy-go-lucky. He loves to ride on the tractor lawn mower, play with playdough, roll around, wrestle, swim and do anything with water. He enjoys looking at pictures, especially of family. He has great recall, especially with people. He can remember names and places that he has only met or been to once.

Will wakes up every day with a smile on his face and curiosity to explore the day ahead. With his wonderful sense of humor and contagious laughter, Will exemplifies joy. Might we all take a note from Will’s life…never give up, never stop smiling, and never lose your sense of wonder. 


Catie Cordero 

Board Member Catie Cordero : Being a Part of Something Special

Hello, my name is Catie Cordero. I serve on the Marketing Committee for Family Hope Foundation. It is an honor to serve on the board and help children obtain the therapy they not only need, but also deserve. My nephew, Levi, has special needs, and he continues to need weekly therapy. So, I understand how important scholarships and therapy are for families. Therapy is expensive, but therapy makes a difference. My nephew is walking and climbing, things the doctors did not know if he would ever be able to do, but therapy and the support of his parents has made it possible. I am passionate about giving children the tools they need to grow and learn. Because they can grow and learn! They can defy the barriers of a diagnosis. Family Hope Foundation turns possibilities into realities…and I get to be a part of that! 

In addition to volunteering for Family Hope Foundation, I am a full-time author and copywriter. I have published five books so far, two of which are children’s books. My favorite children’s book is called Superhero Levi, which is about my nephew. My novels are Historical Suspense and set in the 1920’s. I love the roaring era with all the flappers and tin Lizzies. Currently, I am working on a sequel to my newest series, which picks up after WWI. Basically, I am always writing something.

When I am not working, I am with my family - my husband and two children. We love taking nature trail hikes and visiting orchards. We live in the country and raise chickens. Currently, we have 18 feathery friends. In the house, we have a crazy miniature schnauzer, a cat, a guinea pig, and one leopard gecko. I think we might have too many pets at this point in time. I have a real soft spot for animals. 

My greatest weakness though is Christmas. I am a Christmas fanatic. I usually start listening to holiday tunes in August or September, and my Christmas decorations come out the day after Halloween. Once, I even set up my Christmas tree while handing out candy to trick-or-treaters. I have a problem…we are looking into it! 

That about sums me up…Family Hope Foundation, Writing, Family, Animals and Christmas. 


Stacie Hoey

  Stacie Hoey: A Valued Volunteer

Stacie is a registered Occupational Therapist but has not worked in that capacity since her eldest son was born.  She is proud to say, “I have become a ‘professional’ volunteer in the community.  I have always felt passionate about volunteering and serving in our community. I pray that I have instilled this same love of volunteering in my own boys.” 

Stacie served on Family Hope Foundation’s Board of Directors and has returned as a faithful volunteer for the development and marketing committees. Stacie shares, “Family Hope Foundation is an organization I care deeply about. I believe all people have gifts to share with others and deserve every opportunity to succeed.  The support and opportunities Family Hope Foundation offers our community helps the individual child, as well as the whole family.” 

Stacie also volunteers with Kids Hope and Hand2Hand and the Hope Store through Fellowship Church in Holland.  

Stacie is married to her high school sweetheart, Doug.  This year they celebrated 25 years of marriage. Doug is an Emergency Physician at Holland Hospital. They have two sons.  Their oldest son, Sean, is a senior at Hope College. Their youngest, Ben, is a sophomore at Belmont University in Nashville, TN.  

Stacie’s passion in life has always been her family.  However, with two boys in college, she has gained some free time. When not volunteering, Stacie loves to golf, read, and is a wonderful cook. She also enjoys watching baseball games - GO Detroit Tigers - listening to many types of music and seeing Broadway shows.

Says Family Hope Foundation of Stacie’s commitment, “Stacie is always willing to jump in and tackle any project.  We are blessed to have her skills, commitment and passion for our mission.” 


Lori Vander Ploeg

Meet Board Member Lori Vander Ploeg

Hi everyone!

My name is Lori Vander Ploeg, and I am the newest member of Family Hope Foundation’s board. I wanted to take just a few minutes to tell you a bit about myself. 

I have been married to my husband, Ben, for 18 years. We have two amazing kiddos, Sophia, who is 13 and an 8th grader at Hudsonville Christian, and Cooper, who is 11 and has severe autism. We also have a sweet pup named Molly who rounds out our family perfectly. 

In my free time, I love to run or read. When a book is really good, I end up reading more than running, but both help me carve out some time just for me. 

I am a registered nurse, but I don’t work outside of the house at the moment. I have 14 years of experience as a labor and delivery nurse, and 3 as a school nurse. In 2019, I left my school nurse job to be able to bring Cooper to and from his therapy center every day. He is not able to go to school in the traditional sense, and he quite often needs days at home to rest and reset. 

My son is a big reason why I am so excited to join the board of Family Hope Foundation. Years ago, we were blessed to get a scholarship to help pay for some of Cooper’s therapies. Few people really understand how expensive therapies are for our kiddos or that, quite often, insurance will only pay for a portion of it. I love that this organization helps families right here in West Michigan access therapies that otherwise would not be affordable. 

I’m looking forward to getting to know all the families that are a part of Family Hope Foundation and being involved in something that makes a difference in the lives of our special needs kiddos!


Masterpiece....A Story About Biruk

Life is a canvas that is painted by the strokes of every moment. Fourteen years ago, the mural of Biruk began in rural Ethiopia. Across his canvas, there is a story of sorrows and joys, of challenges and victories.

At four-years-old, Biruk’s parents passed away due to illness, leaving his two sisters and himself in the care of his Great Aunt. However, when Biruk became very sick, the impossible choice was made to place him into the care of the orphanage at the capital city. In the wake of such sadness, the hues of his painting grew more somber until the day he looked into the eyes of his new mother and said, “Good morning.”

That morning brought back the colors of sunshine.  

Biruk is an artist. He enjoys drawing, creating, and exploring nature. Through his art and his loving personality, he exudes light. He lights up his home and school with a kindness that is born from understanding pain and struggle, and yet, choosing to live with joy. It is with this strength that Biruk has faced the challenges of dyslexia and a reading disability.

Biruk’s parents contacted the SLD Read, which is built on Orton-Gillingham phonics, and paid for 50 sessions. A tutor came to his school for half of his 7th grade year. By the end, his tutor suggested more therapy sessions. Due to Biruk’s dad losing his job, they were not able to afford continued lessons. That is when SLD Read told them about Family Hope Foundation. Thanks to a scholarship, Biruk was able to receive another 50 lessons.

With the help of tutoring and his school’s 504 plan, Biruk is receiving A's and B's in his studies. He works extremely hard (3-4 hours every night with homework) for his grades. Biruk is a portrait of perseverance. He is a picture of brightness breaking through the bleak. Each moment of his journey has been captured like strokes of a brush upon his life’s canvas. A canvas that is beautiful, for Biruk, is indeed a masterpiece.   

Parker 2

The Gift of Mobility

When Parker Ann emerged into the world on November 3, 2014, her mother giggled. Upon Parker Ann’s adorable little face was an animated button nose. Much like Mary Poppins, she seemed practically perfect in every way.
As she grew, Parker Ann remained a happy baby though she wasn’t meeting the typical milestones of sitting up, rolling over, and crawling. At ten months old, Parker Ann was officially diagnosed with Agenesis of Corpus Callosum (ACC). In Parker Ann’s brain, the corpus callosum, which connects the two cerebral hemispheres, is absent. Because of this, Parker Ann’s motor, sensory, and cognitive growth are delayed.

After receiving this diagnosis, the Shumways were left wondering, now what? How do we help our daughter? The answer came from a close friend whose daughter also had a disability. She told them about Conductive Education of North America. Trouble was that it was located in Michigan, and they lived in Pennsylvania!

Determined to help Parker, they enrolled her in the conductive education program. They noticed incredible improvement in just four weeks! In addition to conductive education, Parker Ann attended speech, physical, and occupational therapies. Talk about a lot of learning. But Parker Ann handled it all with her usual joy—she doesn't work hard, she plays hard.

After intermittently living in the Ronald McDonald House for almost a year, the Shumways decided to purchase a house in Michigan so that Parker Ann could continue to study and learn. As with many special needs programs, Conductive Education of North America isn’t covered by insurance. Therefore, the program told the Shumways about Family Hope Foundation. With the help of a scholarship, Parker Ann continued her education.

Thanks to the amazing conductive education program, Parker Ann can sit, roll, crawl, walk ten feet independently, and follow simple instructions! She enjoys playing with her brother and her Disney Princess dolls.

Though Parker Ann is considered non-verbal, she doesn’t have a problem expressing herself. She loves to interact with people, gracing them with her big smile and pageant wave.

Now at five-years-old, Parker Ann continues to radiate joy and happiness to the world around her. She greets each day with her bright eyes and cheer, a lot like Mary Poppins.

Elin Ray of Light

A Ray of Light

On April 10, 2014, the world grew a little brighter when a sweet baby girl by the name of Elin was born. Even as a baby, Elin knew how to make an entrance, voicing her opinions with a hearty set of lungs.

Her parents quickly discovered that with Elin a middle ground didn’t exist. It was either hot or cold; the good times were very good and the difficult, were very difficult. Elin didn’t handle change well and would frequently throw tantrums or have meltdowns. The intense fluctuations of temperament led her parents to search for explanations and solutions. Through plenty of research and the help of therapists, Elin received her diagnoses-- social anxiety, which triggers her anger outbursts and sensory integration disorder, which is a condition where the brain has trouble receiving and responding to information that comes in through the senses.

With the diagnoses known, Elin went to The Center for Childhood Development for therapy. Here, she was paired with therapist Elise Dirkse. Elise worked with Elin providing occupational and play therapies. In addition, Elise provided tools for coping with the highs and lows.

Even though certain sensory stimulants are unpleasant, Elin still is a sensory seeker, meaning she loves to move, loves to receive tight hugs, and lay beneath weighted blankets. Elin's parents purchased an indoor sensory swing for their house, and boy-oh-boy, Elin loves that swing! It helps her regulate her senses and has been a true gift to the entire family.

Since the therapy that Elin needed wasn’t covered by insurance, The Center for Childhood Development suggested that they apply for a scholarship from Family Hope Foundation. With this scholarship, Elin was able to receive continued treatment. According to Elin’s mother, “Watching my little girl come out of her shell and to see the smile back on her face has made our OT sessions completely worth it! Every time we go, she becomes a little bit more confident. It has been amazing to watch her grow.”

With the help of therapy, her parents’ continued support, and her hard work, Elin is able to enjoy her day-to-day life to the fullest. The name ELIN means LIGHT. When you look into her beautiful blue eyes, that is exactly what you’ll see, a beautiful radiating light.



James Bouma

The Gift of Communication

Thank you will never do justice to express our sincere gratitude for blessing James with this scholarship.  We wanted to use the scholarship to enable James to learn sign language so he has a way to communicate once he loses his hearing. It is important to equip my son for his future. I never want his world to feel so shaken or challenging that he doesn’t have a means to communicate or to have a voice. With his hearing lost, even with the use of hearing aids, there will be so many environments where they will not help.

We don’t want James left in the quiet and confusion, unable to communicate with anyone, even mom and dad. Learning sign language as our family’s second language, we can always be there to communicate with him through words or sign language.  We will forever be grateful for this gift and we hope that with a new way of communication we will also be able to give back in the future within the deaf and special needs communities.

Without this scholarship we would not be able to afford the therapy to learn sign language. We would be left with the alternative…quiet, confusion, and a shaken world for James. This scholarship is giving our child and family the ability to communicate in the future. That is why “thank you” will never be sufficient. 


Providing a Lifeline

From the beginning of our married life, we believed in giving back to the people, organizations, and community we hold so dear.  We have found that when you give of your time, talent, and resources, you truly receive so much more than you give. Children and families have always held a very special place in our hearts, so supporting Family Hope Foundation just made sense to us. 

God has a way of wrapping things up and putting a beautiful bow on it. For us that beautiful gift, came in May of 2015, and it was the birth of our precious grandson, Kruger Nicholas, who was born with Down syndrome. As with many situations, unless you have experienced it firsthand, you do not and cannot truly understand the emotions, concerns, possible isolation, and fears, that a new diagnosis may bring. Families may feel isolated and need to know they are not alone in this journey. Furthermore, having a child with special needs can be overwhelming both emotionally and financially.

Clearly to have an organization like the Family Hope Foundation is an added lifeline for so many families in our community!  Whether it is the scholarships given to help ease the financial burden, so a parent can send their child to a life changing therapy;  or attending one of the organization’s special events that are both affordable and accommodating; or the wealth of information and resources the organization provides, the mission and work of Family Hope Foundation is a gift to our community.

Our area of West Michigan is a fabulous place to live, work, and raise families. Family Hope Foundation is a huge asset to our area by helping some of the most precious children and families live fuller and richer lives!  We cannot wait to see how these children will grow up and enrich our community! We are thinking, we will be the ones blessed by their presence in our lives!

Scott and Mary Nykerk


 Smith Dorval 3.jpg

The Gift of Hope

Receiving the Family Hope Foundation scholarship makes it possible for Dorval to attend therapy at the Conductive Learning Center. Conductive therapy is not covered by insurance, but the benefits of its technique have been life changing for Dorval. Without the scholarship, this therapy would be out of our reach.  We continue to see positive changes. He is stronger, gaining independence, and most importantly he is seeing the hope for his future every time he attends his therapy!


The Gift of Independence

The intensive physical therapy our son, Gramm, receives at 1+1 Therapy is priceless . . . and yet it costs money.  The strength and abilities he has gained are invaluable.  And, the level of independence is without question more than the doctors expected.  But such gains against the "norms" for a child with spina bifida are not without sacrifice and challenge.  That is where you, Family Hope Foundation, through a Gift of Hope scholarship from the West Michigan Spina Bifida Organization, have stood beside us.  Your gift provides our son with even more chances at improved mobility and increased independence.  The financial burden of his therapy is eased so we can focus on what really matters . . . Gramm!  Thank you!


Gibson Brown.jpg

Turning Challenges into Opportunities

From an early age, we knew that our child was going to need to be immersed in a wide variety of therapies to help him grow, learn, and work through and around the challenges that he faces to communicate and function in the world.  When I opened the letter from Family Hope Foundation and read that he received a scholarship, I cried.  Over the years, financially and emotionally, we have fought so hard for him to get the services he needs, and so it is difficult to put into words how much it means to receive this support from the Family Hope Foundation.  Hippotherapy at Cheff Therapeutic Riding Center has made such a positive impact on our son's development.  Learning to be around, take care of, communicate with, and maneuver and control a horse has been an amazing learning experience.  We have seen so much growth and challenges are now opportunities!  We are grateful that Family Hope Foundation has so generously helped to make this possible.   




The Gift of Peace

Receiving a Family Hope Foundation Scholarship greatly alleviates the financial burden that occupational therapy for my son's Sensory Processing Disorder places on our family. We are now able to dedicate more of our time, energy, and resources on the therapy necessary to provide education, coping mechanisms, and relief to the almost daily sensory meltdowns we have been experiencing over the last five years. A Sensory Processing diagnosis was the first step in regaining control over Brody's emotions and ability to feel comfortable in his own skin, as well as it significantly strengthening our mother-son relationship once I was able to understand where his frustrations were coming from. The scholarship brings financial and emotional peace to our family."




 Our son Gramm has Spina Bifida. Through a scholarship from Family Hope Foundation, he is receiving therapy from Amy Wallenburg at 1 Plus 1 therapy. We could sense Amy's commitment and determination from the very beginning. That assurance revealed itself following one of Gramm's latest intensive therapy sessions. He is now beginning to walk around home and church with only one cane—using his free hand to carry a book or hold his mom's hand. What an indescribable joy!

-The Hulst Family