Tuesday, April 30, 2019

30 Stories 30 Faces 30 Years: Grace Anto

(Editor's Note: Lynn Anto, mother to Grace Anto, reflection appeared in our 30th Anniversary Campaign Letter. We post it again here because her words were so exquisitely written and profoundly filled with hope. Please take the time to read this to let Grace dance into your heart again.)

“Has anyone talked to you about your daughter?” It was midnight, five hours after having Grace, and the fresh out of medical school on call pediatrician was standing by my bedside. I’m sure it was difficult for her to know what to say, but really, she didn’t need to say anything. I already knew. I knew the moment I saw Grace that everything had changed.

I didn’t know if I was having a boy or a girl and after nine months of pregnancy and twenty-four hours of labor, I was so excited to meet this sweet baby. I had thoughts, I had dreams, and I had expectations. What Mom doesn’t? Guess what, Grace blew all of that out of the water! Sure . . . I was nervous, I was scared, I did research, I questioned, but really, I have loved, supported, encouraged and given her the room to bloom.

Grace was born on August 15, 2007 in Akron, OH. After months of testing Grace was given a list of diagnoses - Coronal craniosysnostosis which translates to the right suture in her skull fused at birth, Fronto nasal dysplasia, Cleft of her soft palate, left pectoral muscle less defined, stigmatism in left eye, strabismus, and amblioplia in right eye. We like to sum it up by saying she is a Craniofacial Kid, and what a great kind of kid to be!

Despite her medical challenges, she has chosen to live her life to the fullest. Grace is an outgoing, caring, joyful child. She loves school and is involved in competitive dance, theatre, piano, and choir. She will tell you her dream is to be on Broadway! When she steps on stage, she lets go of all life’s challenges and leaves her heart on the dance floor! She loves to be social and hang out with her friends. Each one of them has a special place in her heart and she looks to them for support during difficult times. Oh, and let’s not forget her dream to travel the world. Paris, France is the first stop!

She doesn’t mind answering questions about her condition and has had a positive influence on everyone she has met. She has shared her story at school, at dance, and in public on behalf of CCA and has found numerous supporters along the way. Anyone who comes in contact with her compliments the positive energy that she radiates.

Grace has had 11 surgeries to date, some of them requiring hospital stays. We know the surgeries are a fact of life, even the ones to come, and it is best to be strong and get through them. This is the life we were meant to live and we work hard every day to live it to the fullest, not letting disappointments or setbacks get in the way. Grace coined her own life motto, “Don’t let fear take over happiness!”

When Grace talks about the future, she plans to follow her Aunt Christy’s footsteps in college and attend Purdue University. She talks about being an engineer, musical theatre actress, and dancer when she graduates. She wants to be fashionable like her Aunt Dana, strong like her Uncle Jon, wise like her Grandpa G., and make the best oatmeal butterscotch cookies like her Grandma G.

It’s true; no one talked to me about my daughter. No one told me that she would be okay, that she would be amazing, that we could do this, that we would walk this path together, enriching the lives of others. No one talked to me about my daughter, and for that I am grateful because I get a front row seat to the premiere of her WONDER!

Grace Anto lives life to its fullest each day. She does this by embodying her personal motto, “Don’t let fear take over Happiness!” Grace lives with her family in Houston, TX. She enjoys singing, dancing, playing the piano, and hanging out with friends. Grace is a budding news anchor for her school’s announcement team. She has shared her “Wonder” story with hundreds of people, from local school assemblies to the halls of Texas Children’s Hospital. When she is not performing, Grace spends time with her family. The Antos enjoy creative pursuits like designing T-shirts and planning travels to places near and far. Lynn, Grace’s mom, says that despite the eleven surgeries Grace has had she is “extremely outgoing and her smile is infectious.” Many people have said of Grace, “there is something special about that girl!” And indeed there is!

Please consider making an anniversary gift donation in honor of Grace. All donations of $300 and above will be matched, up to $30,000! 

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