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DREAMS COME TRUE FOR BROOMFIELD’S HIDDEN HEROES

With a little love from Grant a Dream Foundation, Broomfield’s own Aaron and Mandy Sellen have begun to dream again.

Article by Derik Timmerman

Photography by Sarah Dawn Photography & Stephanie Fassler Photography

Originally published in Broomfield Lifestyle

“For better or for worse; in sickness and in health.” When Aaron and Mandy Sellen stood
together as bride and groom under a bright August sun in 2009, they could hardly have imagined
what their vows would mean for the journey to come.
Thirteen years and three beautiful children later (Clive, age 11; Elenore, age 4; and
Desmond, age 3), the Sellens’ daily life is far from typical. Early on, countless hospital visits
revealed Clive has a rare genetic condition that comes with a long list of other conditions. “Clive
doesn’t sleep well due to seizure activity,” Mandy says, “and the constant screaming can give us
anxiety, so we’re working on ways to find calm and teach our [neurotypical] daughter some
healthy ways to handle all the noise.”
In July 2020, little Desmond was diagnosed with the same genetic condition as Clive.
Aaron and Mandy were left with the seemingly unbearable truth that they now have two kids
with a disease affecting fewer than one thousand people in the U.S. “It’s been difficult,” Mandy
says. “Aaron and I do the best we can to keep our marriage going.”
That’s when the couple reached out to Grant a Dream Foundation. Hearing their story,
Grant a Dream sent Aaron and Mandy on an all-expense-paid beach getaway to Florida. “The
trip was a huge blessing,” Aaron says, “and helped us get refreshed as caregivers. For me
personally, it’s a reminder we need that time and we have to make it a priority.” Mandy adds,
“As caregivers, it’s important that, as a team, we’re connected and able to communicate, and this
dream getaway gave us that chance.”

The hope that Grant a Dream gives the Sellens and so many other caregiver families is a
matter of deeply personal significance for the organization’s founder, Ann Townsend. “I’ve always
been an incredibly hopeful person,” Ann says, “but there have been moments as a parent
caregiver when I remember feeling like all hope had left me.” When Ann’s daughter Hannah was
born with a life-threatening liver condition, the family began a decades-long journey of sleepless
nights, health scares, and hospital visits.
“One day,” Ann recalls, “is doable. Even ten. But when it stretched to hundreds, then
thousands of days, for twenty-plus years, I started to believe there was no end in sight. Just one
small break, one chance to feel normal again, would have made all the difference.”
According to the 2019 American Community Survey, a disability is defined as having
difficulty with one or more of the following essential life activities: seeing, hearing,
concentrating or remembering (ages 5+), walking or climbing stairs (ages 5+), dressing or

bathing (ages 5+), or doing errands (ages 15+). Over three million children in the United States
have a disability, or 4.3% of the under-18 population. That means one out of twenty-five homes
we drive past every day here in Broomfield has a mom, dad, or both on the verge of caregiver
burnout. “I just knew,” Ann remembers, “that I had to do something to help them.”
Founded in 2017, Grant a Dream Foundation is a Broomfield-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit
organization whose vision is to see all caregiver parents find the renewal they need. Grant a
Dream’s ongoing mission is to reduce caregiver burnout by sending the parents of chronically ill
and special needs children on rejuvenating dream getaways.
As Ann herself experienced, caregiver parents don’t often give themselves permission to
take the time away that parents with neurotypical children do. One dream recipient couple shared
that their special needs daughter sleeps between them every night to ensure they can respond
with life-saving care during one of her frequent, severe seizures.
Grant a Dream exists to give these “hidden heroes” a chance to feel normal again and
encourages them to do so on a regular basis for the rest of their caregiver journey. “These
dreams,” Ann writes, “are not just about a fleeting, happy moment. They’re about showing these
beautiful souls, these precious parents who deserve it most, how to dream again.”


Grant a Dream needs you! Visit grantadream.org to learn more about how to get involved.

  • Founder Ann Townsend & Executive Director Derik Timmerman