Seven years ago when we first met Grace, she was already a miracle child... a girl who was not supposed to survive birth was celebrating her first two years of life.
Now she's getting ready for her ninth birthday, and the miracles just keep happening.
"When I was pregnant with her we knew that she had problems with her kidney. Later on in the pregnancy we learned she had hydrocephalus, and she had a hole in her heart. For some reason she survived. "
Doctors eventually said Grace had Star Syndrome, an extremely rare medical condition causing many congenital defects.
Grace had all of them.
"She had problems with her muscular system with her skeletal system. A lot of her internal organs were in the wrong location. She had a number of anomalies. "
Doctors said she would never walk and never talk. She defied the odds, but 18 surgeries have caused post traumatic stress disorder.
She still needs counseling, and different types of therapy.
But she's a very active young girl...one who loves to dance.
"I get to learn new stuff, and sometimes it helps my back. "
"Dance has taught her coordination and balance and self-discipline, and it also empowers her... feeds her spirit. It is one of her loves. She loves to dance. She is a total performer. "
Many, many people have given Grace the love and support she's needed all her life.
So her parents decided to give something back.
And the Grace C. Mae Advocate Center was born.
"We developed the advocate center with the intent that we would serve individuals and families across the lifespan. Because it's not just children that have special needs."
Today, the Advocate Center operates out of churches and other facilities in several locations here in Iowa. And it helps people of all ages.
Play therapy like this is just one of the mental health services it offers.
For her ninth birthday, Grace decided she wanted to raise money for the center that bears her name.
So she'll be the star of her own masquerade ball.
" I'm going to wear like a green peppermint dress, and then I'm going to have a pink mask on. So nobody will know who you are?"
She's become the inspiration for many people.
A longtime family friend who's also the chairman of the Advocate Center has seen that inspiration through the years.
"As the doctor said, no she can't walk...She dances. She won't talk...and she sings. And having those interactions with her, she's just bubbly, sparkly, she's just fun. She's just a joy. Grace is a great name for her!" "