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!


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. (Find a way to make this stand out…perhaps bold green type?)

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.


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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 is 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 fullness with her vibrant personality, a blend of sassy but 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.


 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!


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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."



 We were absolutely elated to receive your scholarship to help pay for programming for our son, Samuel, who is on the autism spectrum. We have been working with Horizons Developmental Resource Center for a couple of years and have seen wonderful social changes for Samuel. The cost is high, which makes each year of paying for programming a matter of prayer and sacrifice to our family with our spending. It is a relief to have this scholarship to help us pay for Samuel's programming. We are so impressed with the progress Samuel has made with his social skills. Samuel will now communicate his needs and concerns with words instead of crying and having a temper tantrum. We see Samuel work toward completing activities independently instead of needing constant prompts from us. Another wonderful change is that Samuel desires to interact with peers, instead of hiding from them. Again, thank you for helping us to continue to offer the best programming for Samuel!

-The Sorenson Family