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Meet Lella Hoang, Dana Umbarger of Rays of Funshine, Inc. in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lella Hoang, Dana Umbarger.

Lella, Dana, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
In 2003, Lella and Dana both received their undergraduate degrees from the University of California, Irvine (UCI). Lella graduated in Cognitive Psychology and Dana in Psychology and Social Behavior. Not knowing each other during their college years, they both ended up working for a behavior therapy agency in Orange County, where they met and became fast (and best) friends! They went on to pursue their graduate degrees together, both attending and graduating from Pepperdine University with their Master of Arts degrees in Clinical Psychology in 2006. They continued to gain experience working for private agencies as well as public school districts in both California and Oregon, providing and nurturing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs to families in need.

In 2011, Lella and Dana decided that they would do their part to contribute even more to the special needs community and begin a non-profit agency that would allow them to focus on providing what families affected by special needs reported they needed most, which was social skill development, parent training/consultation services and educational and behavioral advocacy.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It definitely has not been a smooth road, in fact it continues to be challenging as Rays of Funshine, Inc. currently sometimes struggles to find the consistent funding they need to keep providing these families with the services they require. With such a small staff, they can only service so many families at once and unfortunately, the number of families in need of this service continues to grow at an alarming rate. Rays of Funshine, Inc. doesn’t charge nearly what other agencies charge for these services as they are trying to keep costs low for the families we serve. Therapy is incredibly expensive, particularly behavior therapy because so many hours are required for a higher rate of progression.

Please tell us about Rays of Funshine, Inc..
With 30 years of experience between them in both the public and private sectors, Lella Hoang, M.A. and Dana Umbarger, M.A. have worked extensively with children on the autism spectrum, as well as with students diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, ADHD, Cognitive Impairment, Auditory Processing Disorder, Emotional Disturbance, Cerebral Palsy, Sensory Integration Disorder and more.

Rays of Funshine has helped children of all ages develop more appropriate social, play, and language skills through the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis as well as Cognitive and Clinical Psychology methodologies. In addition, they have also provided support for neurotypical children, often the siblings of a child with special needs as they are often overlooked. With the help of generous donors, Rays of Funshine has been able to service over 50 families and hundreds of hours to children and their families who would otherwise not be able to get the help they need.

There is no other non-profit agency in the area that provides these much needed services with such an experienced staff.

If you had to go back in time and start over, would you have done anything differently?
When they first began in 2011, they were actually not a non-profit and ran into many difficulties with funding sources (i.e. insurance, regional center). Many of the services were not going to be covered and were going to cost families too much for most of them to afford. Three years in, they decided to attempt a different route, a non-profit route to see if donations would be more successful in covering these much needed services for these families in need. If they were to do it all over again. they would have begun as a non-profit right from the start. The last thing a family affected by any special need is another hurtle!

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