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When Jennifer and Steve’s twins, Shane and Shelby, were born 11 weeks premature, Shane suffered minimal effects, but Shelby was diagnosed with multiple challenges, including cerebral palsy and epilepsy.

Fortunately, familiar with UCP’s Family Respite Care program, Shelby’s parents knew they had a partner in caring for Shelby, who at one point required anywhere from five to 15 trips to therapy each week. In a household that includes two kids, four rescue dogs and at least one medically fragile foster baby at any given time, Jennifer and Steve continue to appreciate the opportunities Respite Care provides their family.

Shelby, now 14 ½ and a freshman at Bella Vista High School, is in great hands with her respite care provider, Theresa. After eight years of working together, Shelby thinks of Theresa as a big sister who continually provides her with new opportunities for learning and adventure. While Shelby’s respite worker helps her with homework and keeps her safe, she also gives Shelby the chance to have a greater sense of independence. Shelby says that working with Theresa has taught her to accept herself for who she is.

A true Renaissance woman, Shelby also participates in various adapted sports camps, including snow skiing at Camp Challenge Ourselves through Outdoor Leisure (C.O.O.L.), track and field events at the A.C. T. (Ability to Compete Together) games, and other outdoor activities with her Young Life group. And when she’s not dining at her favorite restaurant, Red Lobster, you’ll find her singing along to Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum, or winning a fierce game of UNO or Connect Four!

She also dreams of one day having her own home so that she and her best friend can live independently. Shelby plans to write an autobiography so that she can share her story with others.

“Just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t dance and sing,” Shelby said. “I’m just like everyone else.”

UCP’s Family Respite Care services provide a much needed break.