30% of Children with Special Needs do NOT have a definitive diagnosis.

On average, it takes a family 7 years and many specialists to find a rare diagnosis. With over 7,000 rare conditions, the journey is not always quick, nor is it easy. U.R. Our Hope helps families on the journey to diagnosis and helps them navigate the healthcare system with a rare diagnosis. We support families on every step of the way. We provide gas and meal cards for those traveling out-of-town or out-of-state for medical visits, provide respite during hospitalizations, provide meals during times of crisis, and cover burial funds when necessary. Did you know 30% of children with a rare diagnosis do not live to see their fifth birthday? Give a family hope today and make a donation.

Monthly Meetings

Monthly meetings allow us to provide face-to-face support for families by gathering to share research and resources. We help families get out in to the community with a supportive group who understands the journey.

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Upcoming Events

U.R. Our Hope hosts community events to raise awareness for those with Undiagnosed and Rare Conditions. We are always looking for new locations and local businesses to partner with to support our families.

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Learn More

Learn more about our organization and the families we help. We are grateful to our local media and online publications who support our mission and share the stories of so many.

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Who We Are

U.R. Our Hope is a registered 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization that assists individuals and their families on their journey to diagnosis,or helps them navigate the healthcare system with a rare diagnosis. Our mission is to serve individuals with undiagnosed and rare disorders through education, advocacy, and support in order to bring hope through knowledge, empowerment, and healing. We assist families in the Austin area, and throughout Texas, the United States and beyond.

With the medical advancements and technology available to us today, it is hard to believe that anyone could live without a diagnosis, but this is a reality faced by many of our families and countless others across the world. There are currently over 7,000 rare disease and the average journey to diagnosis is SEVEN YEARS!! Many of these disease are rapidly progressing and some individuals cannot afford to wait seven years. Sadly, many children do not live to see their 5th birthday and their families are left struggling for answers and fear of the future for other children. It is imperative that we help these families find answers quickly and efficiently.

What We Do

U.R. Our Hope helps families by researching medical facilities and genetic tests. We connect families with physician’s and facilitate referrals whenever possible. We also help families enroll in clinical studies at some of the nation’s leading research programs and facilities. To date, many of our families have been seen at the National Institutes of Health’s Undiagnosed Disease Program, which only sees about 200 cases annually, and several have also enrolled in TGEN’s Center for Rare Childhood Disorders. Sometimes, these families just need to know they are not alone and need support along the journey. We host monthly meetings in the Austin area and have a closed Yahoo group for virtual support to those who are not in Texas.

Currently, we use the donations we receive to support our families along the journey by:

  • Providing meals during hospitalization or times of crisis
  • Providing gas/meal cards to families traveling out-of-town or out-of-state for medical appointments
  • Covering a portion of funeral costs/arrangements when families lose a child
  • Covering costs of record requests, shipping, and application fees for clinical studies

In the future, we would like to be able to support families in many different ways, which include:

  • Covering the cost of medical visits not covered by insurance
  • Covering the cost of genetic testing
  • Covering travel costs (air/bus fare, hotel accommodations, meals, etc) for medical visits and for families to attend annual conferences
  • Covering costs for medical and therapy equipment

We also hope to create and sustain a national network of Undiagnosed Patients for use by physicians. Currently, there is no national database storing the valuable information Undiagnosed Patients present to the medical community. The creation of a national network would allow physician’s to input their patient’s cases (symptoms and not personal identifying information) and compare them to other cases in the United States. If a match is found, a doctor would then be able to contact the treating doctor of the matched patient to create real time collaboration. Our Director of Advocacy, Heather Long, has worked with Representative John Carter in Texas to create legislation to help create this network, but the bill has failed in the last 3 times it has been presented. Representative Carter’s office continues to support this bill as does U.R. Our Hope. We would like to be the organization behind the network and this would require a significant amount of money and partnerships.




We help to advocate for patients with undiagnosed and rare disorders by helping to promote legislation that will benefit our families. Our Director of Advocacy is very active in legislative efforts and has even co-authored a bill that would create a network as a tool for physicians to register their undiagnosed cases and find other physicians handling similar cases in order to promote real-time collaborations focused on finding a diagnosis and improving the care and outcomes of their patients.




Board of Directors

Mary Elizabeth Parker, PT, PhD, PCS, NCS – Medical Liaison & Co-founder

Dr. Parker graduated from Duke University in 1991 with a double major in biological psychology and physical anthropology. She completed her Master’s degree in physical therapy in 1995 at the Medical College of Virginia. She is licensed to practice Physical Therapy in Texas and Connecticut. She continues to have an active research agenda in movement disorders in autism with her colleagues in the northeast from SUNY, Sacred Heart, and Fairfield University.

She has received a certificate in Advanced Pediatric Therapy from Texas Woman’s University in 2004, followed by board specialization in both pediatric and neurologic physical therapy from American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists. Her dual certification in pediatrics and neurology is unique in the profession.

She is an item writer both for the national PT and PTA exams.

She completed her PhD at Texas Woman’s University in physical therapy; her dissertation is in differential diagnosis.

Her passion for the undiagnosed is channeled through this work and her role as medical liaison for U.R. Our Hope, a locally based, but national group that assists individuals with undiagnosed and rare disorders at any age or any stage.

Dr. Parker is a clinical assistant professor of physical therapy at Texas State University. She maintains a small clinical practice through Growing Places Therapy Services in the Austin and surrounding areas.


Kailee Johnson, Director of Community Relations

Kailee joined the organization in 2010, just a few months after losing her 7-month old son undiagnosed. Gabriel James Besserman, affectionately known as Gabe, went through 4 months of extensive testing and anti-epileptic treatments before passing away without a diagnosis. Kailee understands the importance of receiving support while on this journey, which is why her heart is so close to this group. U.R. Our Hope has provided continued support, and aided in the healing process after her tragic loss, and Kailee feels the ongoing need to support the individuals and families who enter this realm.

Vanessa Vaughan, Director of Communications

Vanessa joined the organization upon Dr. Mary Elizabeth Parker’s suggestion to assist in the diagnostic journey for her son, Braxton. The support from other parents helped Vanessa heal and empowered her to push for further answers on Braxton’s condition. With the help of Dr.Parker, her son was diagnosed at 21 months with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome. Although Braxton is now diagnosed, Vanessa has gained valuable experience and is compelled to support other families who are also on the journey. Vanessa joined the Board of Directors as the Director of Communications and maintains our website, social media and marketing efforts.

Deborah Gordon, Director of Finances


Nidia Heston, Director of Advocacy


Tarah Walter, Director of Development


Advisory Board

Isabel Huerta

Betsy Furler

Betsy is a speech pathologist and autism consultant with 20 years of experience in a variety of settings. She graduated from Austin College with a BA in Psychology and Sociology and from the University of Texas at Dallas with a MS in Communication Disorders. She also holds a Texas teaching certificate and is a certified PLAY Project consultant. In 2010, she began using the iPod Touch and iPad in therapy sessions. Her use of these mobile devices has expanded to include training educators to use them in the classroom. Betsy is also the mother of two boys, Henry 15 and Sam 9. Henry has struggled with many medical problems since birth. The family has traveled across the US in search of a diagnosis for Henry. After 15 years of searching, success with the ketogenic diet for epilepsy and Whole Exome Sequencing have provided some answers although Henry remains partially undiagnosed.

Debra McDowell

Debra is a physical therapist licensed in Texas. She completed her PhD in Physical Therapy at Texas Woman’s University School of Physical Therapy – Dallas in 2008. She has been in practice in Austin for over 20 years with her practice and research focus on fall prevention for older adults and older women’s health issues. Recently, Debra was instrumental in developing a Physical Therapist Assistant program at South University, Austin. Presently, she is an Assistant Clinical Professor with the Texas State University Physical Therapy Program teaching in the neurology course series and assisting with the clinical decision making sequence. In addition she has taken the position of Administrative Director of the Texas State University Physical Therapy Clinic.

She joins our organization as an assistant to our Medical Liaison.