The Tangible Gift of Joy

The Tangible Gift of Joy— A Danielle “Ellie” Bentley Story

Family Hope Foundation is an incredible organization. The words “thank you” don’t seem to adequately express how blessed we feel to have people come around us in support of our daughter.

If joy was a tangible gift, then it would be the gift that Danielle “Ellie” Bentley gives away daily with her contagious smiles, her hugs, her tenderness toward other children and her gentleness toward animals. Each trip to the store is marked by Ellie’s friendly, “hello” to the patrons passing by. If you could sum up Ellie in one word, it would be nurturing.

For the Bentley’s, Ellie herself has been a gift. On August 24, 2017, Ellie joined the Bentley’s as a foster child. They were grateful to be entrusted to care for her and fell in love fast. A year later, when adoption became an option, Ellie officially became a Bentley.

Early in 2019, the Bentley’s noticed that Ellie’s development had plateaued in several areas. After an evaluation, they learned Ellie had sensory processing disorder. They connected with Kristen Hessen, who specializes in helping children with traumatic backgrounds and disorders. Kristen opened her own practice called Roots and Wings Therapies, and Ellie became one of her patients. After a few months of occupational therapy, it was determined a speech evaluation would be helpful. Cary Cekola, owner of HeadStrong, diagnosed Ellie with speech delays and became her speech therapist.

Because these critical therapies are costly, Ellie’s therapists suggested the Bentley’s apply for a scholarship through Family Hope Foundation. In the fall of 2020, the family was awarded a scholarship, helping to offset the costs of Ellie’s multiple therapy sessions.  Says Ellie’s mom, “Family Hope Foundation is an incredible organization.  The words “thank you” don’t seem to adequately express how blessed we feel to have people come around us in support of our daughter.”  

Thanks to her continued therapy, Ellie is making great progress with her speech and sensory regulation! Peer interactions are becoming smoother as she has better articulation and more confidence in her speech. Her sentences are longer, and she is easier to understand. She is also less anxious and is able to stay engaged longer on tasks she once found to be too tedious or difficult.

Before therapy, Ellie didn’t want to color, cut, or do any fine motor activities. Currently, she can sit and focus on these tasks and shows great pride in her accomplishments. Triggers such as loud noises aren’t as jarring. She can voice when she is scared and request her headphones when needed. Previously, Ellie wasn’t playing independently. After therapy started, Ellie almost immediately showed strides in this area. She loves to do pretend play with her animals and Paw Patrol toys! 

Ellie now attends occupational and speech therapy monthly. With the start of preschool, the Bentley’s are confident that Ellie will soar because she has a strong support system.

Ellie is living her life to the fullest— playing in the mud, swimming, playing with her sensory bins, learning to ride her new bike and exploring local parks. Her highlight is always meeting new friends and spreading her joy to the world around her.

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