Meet Nala

Most people probably don’t know that children with Down syndrome are 20 to 30 times more likely to develop leukemia than kids without Down syndrome.

Nala’s mom, Erna, had only been to Hope Haven for Nala’s speech therapy, but when Nala was diagnosed with leukemia Terri, Hope Haven’s Director of Education came to the hospital with books and activities for Nala. During the long hours of treatment Terri’s visits gave the parents time to breathe and Nala something to look forward to.

Because chemotherapy reduces the immune’s system’s ability to fight germs, Nala’s mom was terrified to put her back in her old daycare. Erna, a self-proclaimed neat freak, was simply going to keep her at home for the one to two years that treatment would take. Terri assured her that because of our small school setting Hope Haven is able to clean at a much higher rate and the teachers are able to monitor the students closely. And for Nala, the ability to go to school means normalcy; a place where she isn’t “sick”, she’s just a kid.

Erna decided to start with Hope Haven’s summer camp and see how it went. Nala was so happy to be with new friends and loved coming so much each day that mom realized she could finally relax. She enrolled her in Hope Haven’s Discovery School. Now, five months later, Nala is learning at a rate her mother can’t believe and her personality has blossomed. She is talking more and saying please and thank you. “For the first time in 4 years I finally feel like I have a team that helps me care for her,” says Erna. “It’s all the little things that matter, and bringing Nala to Hope Haven was the best decision ever.”