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This is Ellie. She is 17 years old. She is the 4th of 5 children. She is a Special Olympian (she won a bronze medal.) Sometimes she is shy. Sometimes she is loud. Sometimes she is silly. She is always brave, except when there are spiders.
Ellie is my cousin. I remember the day she was born, we were so excited. A few days later I saw her at her house, such a sweet and beautiful baby. But even more vividly I can recall a few days after meeting her, I came home from a night out (I was in high school at the time) and my mom asked me to include baby Ellie in my prayers. She was in the hospital having heart surgery. I wasn’t known for my praying back then, but that night I prayed hard and good for my tiny cousin. Ellie has been battling heart and other health issues ever since. (Including 4 open heart surgeries.)

Ellie likes books, jokes, puzzles (holy smokes she is a puzzle whiz!) And she loves her friends: Garfield, Clifford, Piglet, and Dashal Robert Parr. She sleeps with them and drags them around the house. They watch over her as she eats breakfast. She loves the “funnies” and asks her mom to get her glasses so she can read them to her.

Ellie doesn’t do all that other stuff that 17 year old girls do. I don’t know why some of us have to lead difficult lives, but what I do know is that Ellie teaches me. Every time I see her, I see her light. It radiates from her. She reminds me why I am here. She reminds me what is really important.

“Ellie is the toughest girl I know, every year with us is a gift. It’s been a tough, difficult road, but we would do it all again just to know her”~Ellie’s mom