UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation awards 25,000th grant to help 9-year-old thrive

Nine-year-old Ella Beckstead is described as an outgoing, determined and passionate young girl. Her mother says her positivity serves as an inspiration and source of comfort for her entire family — despite the challenges she’s faced after being born with a heart condition.

Ella only has half a functioning heart and has undergone three open heart surgeries. Ella has no functioning spleen and a very weak immune system. She also requires daily medication.  

Still, Ella makes it her mission to make others smile — especially her younger brother, Baylor. Last year, Ella gave him a handwritten letter for his birthday. 

She wrote: “You are my dream come true. As a little brother, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. You are the best.”  

“The letter brought tears to my eyes,” said Melissa Beckstead, Ella’s mother. “She is the most amazing child. She tells me every day how much she loves her family and being a big sister.”

When Ella isn’t playing with her little brother or working on school assignments, doctor’s visits consume many of her days. She also has cardiologist appointments every six months. Ella’s mother says the costs for her medical care add up.

“There’s never a moment that we don’t owe something,” Melissa said. “Over the years, we’ve always been backed up, paying most medical costs out-of-pocket.”

To help the family with their medical expenses, the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation (UHCCF) has chosen Ella as its 25,000th grant recipient.  

“It’s incredible,” Melissa said. “It removes the stress of fearing we can’t do what needs to be done for Ella. The extra support provides peace of mind.” 

Since 2007, UHCCF has provided more than $54 million in medical grants to pay for children’s medical expenses not covered, or not fully covered, by a commercial health insurance plan. The grants help cover medical services and equipment like various therapies, counseling services, surgeries, prescriptions, wheelchairs and more.

“Many of us know families with children who struggle each day, physically, emotionally and financially,” said Matt Peterson, president of UHCCF. “That is why the UnitedHealthcare Children’s Foundation is committed to helping improve the health of children and lessen some of the stress that encompasses the entire family. Our hopes and prayers are with Ella as we are humbled to be in a position to help such an amazing child and family.”

Ella will likely require additional surgeries in the future, including a possible heart transplant. Her mother says the extra support from the UHCCF means the world to their family.

“As a mother, there are no words and no greater feeling,” she said.

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom