The McDowell family

The McDowell family has started a nonprofit to help families with disabled children.

The help Amanda McDowell’s family needed for themselves, they’re now offering to others.

Confronted with questions and problems when her daughter suddenly developed disabilities, McDowell started the nonprofit Adaya’s Gift of Hope to help other families find resources, guidance and even financial support.

This is their story:

Amanda and Rob McDowell adopted 3-year-old Adaya from Ethiopia. Three years later, which was three years ago, a virus triggered an underlying genetic condition that put Adaya into a malignant hyperthermia state.

Ultimately, that caused traumatic brain injury.

“She wasn’t even like a baby, she was like a rag doll with no muscle tone at all,” McDowell says about Adaya’s condition at the time.

“She couldn’t eat or speak, she was in a diaper, intubated and in a coma for a couple weeks.”

Adaya was at MUSC for two months and then in rehab in Ohio for another five weeks.

Four months before this happened, their foster son Kamden, then 5 years old, was diagnosed with autism.

Confronted with myriad problems and concerns, the McDowells didn’t know where to go for help.

When Adaya went to an intensive physical therapy program in Florida that cost $10,000, McDowell realized the immense problems families face, often with no warning, and therefore no preparation.

“You wait for insurance to approve something, and if they do and the child’s situation changes…they may pay for a wheelchair this year, but then next year the situation has changed,” she says.

“My heart is to bring the local community together to help provide financial assistance, support and guidance to these families.

“There are huge needs that insurance doesn’t cover and we want to stand in that gap.

“Our financial resources assist the special needs individual obtain equipment, therapy or resources that insurance does not cover.”

Because of a lack of case management, many children aren’t even diagnosed in a timely manner or properly, McDowell says.

“We need to raise awareness. Unless you have someone with special needs in your circle, it’s a lonely, isolated world to live in. People have no idea.”

When Adaya came home from the hospital with no wheelchair, her parents brought her home in an umbrella stroller.

“Can you imagine a child who’s like a rag doll in an umbrella stroller?” McDowell asks.

They were finally able to get a used wheelchair, a potty chair and a car seat.

Because of that experience, in addition to the other services Adaya’s Gift of Hope offers, Adaya’s Closet provides that gently-used equipment.

On March 28, there will be a Hope Gala fundraiser dinner and silent auction at The Hall at St. John’s Greek Orthodox Church in Myrtle Beach, and will include musical entertainment by Johnathan Roberts.

Tickets are $65 for singles and $125 for couples.

“We hope it’ll be like a date night for people, and it’s for a good cause,” McDowell says, adding that 100% of the proceeds will go to help people.

“There are no administration costs.”

For tickets, to donate to the silent auction, or for help with the needs of a disabled family member, contact McDowell at 843-352-8604. Or, email her at

For more information, see Andaya’s Gift of Hope’s Facebook page.

McDowell and her husband Rob, committed Christians, own Barefoot Wedded Bliss, an all-inclusive wedding ceremony business, and have also started Palmetto Christian Pages, a directory of Christian business owners, professionals and nonprofits.

The family, who lives in Carolina Forest, includes a biological son, Jase, who’s 11.

Adaya has, her mother says, “Made leaps and bounds by the grace of God.

“She speaks, she eats, she goes to school and she recently took 2 ½ steps.

“During our experience, we have come across so many families who have endured such hardship like ourselves,” McDowell says.

“But with Christ on our side, we have seen Him provide and show Himself in more ways than we could have ever imagined. He is so faithful as we place our hopes in Him.”


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