After Young Daughter’s Tragic Death, Mom Opens Autism Center Where Children Can Safely Play

Aimee Darby has known a life full of struggles. She conquered several years’ worth of infertility in order to give birth to her daughter, Eliza Hope. Then shortly afterward, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and she beat that too.

When Eliza was two years old, shew as diagnosed with autism and intractable epilepsy. And then when she was just four years old, she tragically died.

Not wanting anyone to forget her amazing daughter, and acknowledging that other children like Eliza have a great need for a place where they can play and learn safely, Aimee came up with the idea for the Eliza Hope Therapy Center.

“You have this plan for your life,” says Aimee, “And sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you want it to turn out. But no matter what, there is always hope. There really is.”

Aimee has been dreaming about creating this center for years. It’s been her hope after so much loss, grief, and struggle. And now she’s finally accomplished her dreams.

The center houses a sensory gym, a large group room, a reading area, and more. It gives children with special needs a place to play, bond, and learn in safety and without judgment. All because of Eliza Hope.

“We named her Eliza Hope not really knowing how big it would actually be,” says Aimee.

There are little touches of Eliza in every room, including a backpack with her name on it on the coatrack and plenty of photos of her on the walls. The professionals who work in the center are even the same ones who taught and helped Eliza with her autism before she died.

It’s not looking like Aimee will have to worry about her daughter being forgotten anytime soon. “When I leave this earth,” she says, “there’s something here for people to remember her.” Take a peek at the video below to learn more about the therapy center.

Thank you, Aimee, for allowing your grief to become your inspiration for something that will have so much meaning to so many over the years. The world needs more giving and thoughtful people like you!

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?