HOPE is a Wonderful Thing – Kate’s Story

At sixteen weeks pregnant, Sarah and John Boydstun received the unsettling news that their unborn daughter, Kate, had an open neural tube defect. She was ultimately diagnosed with Spina Bifida, a birth defect that occurs when the spine and the spinal cord do not form properly. Commonly referred to as the “snowflake condition” of birth defects because no two cases are the same, Spina Bifida can range from mild to severe.

“We get the news, and it throws you a massive curveball. I can’t remember another time in my life when my heart just dropped to the floor,” said John, Kate’s dad.

Despite the devastating news, Sarah and John felt a sense of relief when Kate was born. She was a healthy baby in all other regards, yet Sarah and John knew that caring for Kate would be drastically different than what they experienced with their two typically developing children. They knew they needed help.



Due to a job relocation, the Boydstuns moved to Birmingham. When looking at preschool options, they found United Ability’s Hand in Hand Early Learning Program through a friend’s “glowing endorsement.” After visiting the campus and meeting the team, they “fell in love with it.” Now Kate and her sister, Kirby, attend Hand In Hand. Having both girls at the same school offers the family additional support.

“Everything is done for us. Resources are just provided. Everything has just been wonderful,” said Sarah. “I take them to school; it’s just like normal. They go and have their regular day. I don’t have to worry about anything.” Kate receives Early Intervention therapy services in her classroom, her specialized medical needs are attended to; and, she receives love and encouragement from classmates and staff. This is the magic of Hand In Hand.

Kate’s progress in the last six months has been “amazing” Sarah said. “She’s walking independently and her confidence and strength to do so increase daily. Her verbal and communication skills have come a long way,” said Sarah. “It’s all because United Ability’s amazing staff works together to provide her daily therapy and care. I can’t say enough about her teachers, the medical assistant, and her superstar physical therapist.”


Hand In Hand has given our family great peace of mind.

“We have the utmost confidence that Kate is getting the highest level of care that we could possibly give her on a daily basis in a typical daycare setting, and that’s amazing,” John said.

“Everything here has been a breath of fresh air,” said Sarah. “Hope is a wonderful thing.”

“I can’t tell you how grateful and appreciative we are for everything Hand In Hand represents to us and provides for us. It’s literally a game-changer for us and for Kate and we can’t thank you enough for that,” said John.


Kim Braasch has been the director of the United Ability Hand In Hand Early Learning Program for 26 years.

“When we first started out serving children with disabilities, we allowed siblings and employees’ kids to come,” described Braasch. “It was amazing to witness the benefits of them learning side by side. To see a child in a wheelchair is the norm for our kids. They learn acceptance at an early age and to care for one another—that’s what sets us apart.”

Today, the program serves nearly 200 part-time and full-time children from six weeks to five years old. In total, 35-40% of the program’s children have special needs, while the rest are typically developing children.

Hand In Hand is more than a preschool, the program offers additional resources including:

“Everything we do is a team effort. Families are a big part of that team. We see miracles happen every day." Braasch concluded.

Please call (205) 944-3939 for more information or to schedule a visit.

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