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For Immediate Release

Easterseals Introduces Volleyball Challenge Ambassador

The Girl Who Lived Thrives With Easterseals

March 14, 2022

Stella walking with help from her physical therapist JenThree tiny squeaks let them know she was alive. That’s how Dover resident, Stella Rummel-Ashlock, who was once predicted to never live past birth, announced her arrival into this world. Now, she is a beautiful, capable and thriving three-year-old girl headed to preschool thanks to her indomitable spirit and the help of Easterseals Children’s Therapy services.

Stella and her family will share their story as the Volleyball Ambassador for the 2022 Easterseals/CAI Volleyball Challenge, which will take place on April 30, 2022 at Delaware State University in Dover, DE and on May 14, 2022 at William Penn High School in New Castle, DE.

“We were blindsided by Stella’s diagnoses,” says her mom, Kim Rummel-Ashlock. “We felt so helpless and alone. Nobody believed she would make it. We felt hopeless but at the same time wanted to hold onto to any hope we could see. We were supposed to be preparing a nursery and instead we were making final arrangements.”
After an emotional roller coaster during pregnancy Kim and her husband, Lee, heard those three little squeaks in the delivery room that let them know she was alive. She then spent 88 days in the NICU before her parents and older sister welcomed her home. Stella’s journey towards independence was just beginning as she began therapy with Easterseals.
“Easterseals is amazing. The therapists became like family,” Kim says. “They made life more enjoyable since they helped us feel more confident. I had no clue before Stella, but I cannot emphasize early intervention enough. Start therapy as soon as your child is born or they are able to participate. If we would have waited, we would have lost so much time.”
While in the NICU, Stella was connected to so many wires that all her parents could do was hold her. However, once she arrived home Kim got her started with speech, occupational, and physical therapies to help Stella not just live, but blossom. At first, Stella was unable to lift her head, suck on a bottle, sit up, and use her left side. Kim says, “she missed all her milestones, except her attitude. She is right on track with her attitude.”
Easterseals therapists helped Stella meet her milestones, taught Kim and Lee the exercises so they could help Stella while they were not there and suggested equipment that would help Stella meet her goals. Stella is now able to walk with assistance, assemble puzzles, color and tolerate different textures, which is something she struggled with because of the feeding tube she had when she was born.
“Easterseals helped us think outside of the box. The journey may feel lonely but there are people and programs like Easterseals that can help,” Kim says. “Keep in mind baby steps. It’s not the timeline that matters, even if they are making small steps it’s a win. Easterseals helps you realize that. Take those wisps of baby steps as the huge wins they are. Stella may not do things in the same way as other kids but in the end it is the same result. She went from a baby who could not hold her head up at one and now is walking with assistance all thanks to Easterseals therapies.”
The Volleyball Challenge is a family-friendly event, which brings the community together to raise critically needed dollars for Easterseals to serve children and adults with disabilities. For more information about the event, go to www.volleyballchallenge.com or contact Missy Baker at 302-221-2078 or mbaker@esdel.org.

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