Paying it forward with "Hope the Hip Hippo"

"Hope the Hip Hippo" helped put a smile on Abbey Dankwerth's face.
After a special book changed their lives, a local family wants to do the same for others.
"Hope the Hip Hippo" helped put a smile on Abbey Dankwerth's face.

In her short life, 6-year-old Abbey Dankwerth of St. Louis Park has undergone 13 surgeries, including open-heart surgery in 2011. She was born with congenital hip dysplasia, a condition where the hips don’t form properly. Abbey’s mother Michelle often worried about how the ordeal was affecting her daughter emotionally. “She didn’t understand why she needed to wear a cast all the time,” says Michelle.

While researching ways to help Abbey, Michelle found Hope the Hip Hippo, a story about a brave little hippo coping with hip dysplasia. Co-authors Gina Jay (of Georgia) and Julie Beattie (of Canada) both have preschool-age daughters with hip dysplasia and wrote Hope to help families like theirs. “It’s frustrating when your child is trying to understand, and you can’t help,” Jay says. “We want kids to relate to Hope, and realize they aren’t alone.”

The effect on Abbey was huge. “We read it three times the day I brought it home,” Michelle recalls. “It gave her the words she needed to communicate.”  

Seeing how helpful Hope was for Abbey, the Dankwerths wanted to introduce other families to the book; they donated 100 copies of Hope to Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare’s Child Life department.

Gillette is putting Hope to good use. “The book is great. It’s fun and lighthearted, but gets at underlying issues,” says Natalie Kinsky, Child Life specialist. Gillette regularly sends out books to patients and has already gone through more than half of the 100 copies. “We rely on donations,” says Kinsky, “and contributions like [this] are so helpful.”      


Go to to get a copy of the book for yourself or learn how you can contribute to raising awareness about hip dysplasia. The majority of proceeds from Hope the Hip Hippo go to the International Hip Dysplasia Institute. More information about Gillette’s Child Care Program at