Friday, October 28, 2016

A Race 4 Grace

Several years ago, Kyle did a car care feature on Jason Williamson of Hillsboro, who does remote control car racing in the area. Last year, he invited us to come and watch him race one evening, as he was trying to raise more awareness for INAD. That particular night didn't work, but we promised to try and come this year.

Kyle designed the flyer for the race.
As the new season started, Jason asked if he could stop by to show Grace his car this year. He had selected a photo of Grace to run on the hood with our slogan "A Grace-Filled Journey." It was a fun evening of visiting, and Jason told us he was working on a fundraising event for INAD research.  Plus, his car looks awesome with Grace's photo on it!

We couldn't wait to see Jason when we got there!
After looking ahead to the fall, Jason asked if we could come to Slideways RC Raceway at the Fayette County Fairgrounds in Brownstown on Oct. 22, so we put it down on our calendar.  Kyle helped Jason to create a flier for the event, and we did some publicity in the paper. 

Someone was SO excited for her special day!
The morning of the race, we set out a little early so we could make sure and arrive before the races officially started at noon. Jason was going to drive his car in the official start lap while the National Anthem played, and he wanted Grace to help him drive it.

All the cars lined up before the race.
All smiles before the races began!
Although it's the norm for us to run a bit late, we arrived around a half an hour early, and enjoyed visiting with Jason and one of the organizers, Josh, who showed us around the racetrack. They ended up with about 30 remote control race cars in a variety of classes, and as they got set up, we got settled into our seats by the side of the track.

These are Jason's cars for the big event.
Organizers lined up all the participating cars for a photo before the start of the race, and then Kyle and Grace went over to one side so Grace could help Jason drive his car during the National Anthem lap. Kyle helped to hold Grace up a bit, and Jason helped her steer as the song played.  Kyle said that she just giggled and cooed the whole time.

Grace loved helping to drive the car during the National Anthem.
As the qualifying laps started, we settled into our lawn chairs to watch the cars. It was really neat to see them, and although the drivers made it look easy, I'm pretty sure i would wreck at the first corner.

Jason gave Grace a picture of her car with the date of the event.
After a bite to eat for lunch, including some awesome kettle corn, we switched places, and Grace promptly fell asleep on my lap for part of the afternoon. I definitely enjoyed the snuggles as we watched all the races.  And we especially loved when Jason's heats came up so we could see Grace's car go round and round the track.

Mommy got some snuggles at the race too.
Although the races went well into the evening, we got ready to go after the first qualifying heats were finished. We gathered up our stuff and made our way to the table where Jason was working on his car to give our thanks and say goodbye. Then we stopped by to say thanks to Josh, and he presented us with $650 in donations to INAD research from the day. We were completely blown away, and so humbled by the generosity of the racers and the event organizers. Kyle took Grace up front and talked a little about INAD and what their donations would mean to the research.

Kyle told the racers about INAD research.
Jason also presented Grace with a framed photo of his car racing with the date of A Race 4 Grace on it, and we can't wait to hang it up in our home.  

We are SO grateful to everyone who helped make the event a success!
It was such a special day for our family, and we are always grateful for a chance to share Grace's story and raise more awareness for INAD. Thanks to all the racers and organizers for their support, and we hope to be back to see the cars race again soon.


Friday, October 21, 2016

Volley For Grace - Take Three

It was the final of three nights to celebrate Grace, as the Lady Lancers volleyball team hosted Morrisonville in what would be the last Volley for Grace game this season. The game was originally planned for early September, but a power outage moved the game to Oct. 18 in Raymond.

Kyle's cousin, Kensey, takes her turn "Serving for Grace."
Once again, the gym was decked in purple balloons and a bake sale was set up in the cafeteria with photos of Grace and information about INAD.  Kyle's cousin, Katelyn, was selling sugar cookies with purple icing and purple princess crackle, and also took donations for INAD research.  Our first stop was the bake sale table for some soft cookies, which I shared with Grace as she ate her dinner during the junior varsity game.

The Morrisonville volleyball team gave Grace a gift and a $1,300 donation.
For this game, Grace had gotten her very own purple jersey with the number one on the back and her name. As she worked on her dinner, our friends, the Wagahoffs stopped by the table to visit, and we were so excited they came for the game.  We also met up with both sets of Grace's grandparents, as well as Aunt Mikaela and cousin, Quincy, who once again made the trip from Arnold to come be part of the fun.

Kyle and Grace pose with the Morrisonville team.
After a little bit of visiting, the junior varsity game was over, and we headed into the gym. Athletic Director Josh Stone was getting ready to start the Serving for Grace fundraiser, and although Kyle opted out at this game, we did get to see Kyle's cousin, Kensey, take her turn.  

Before taking the court, the two teams circled Grace for a prayer.
This game, it was Morrisonville's turn to share what the fundraisers they had done. Even though Morrisonville isn't technically in our county, they were still one of the first schools to join A Grace-Filled Journey, with the help of science teacher, Janet Walch.  Head Coach Lela Ferrill told the crowd that her team had held a cake raffle at each of the team's nine home games, as well as a bake sale at lunch, and even a root beer float bar at lunch. Along with their T-shirt sales and sponsorships, the girls presented us with a $1,300 donation for INAD research, as well as some new balloons for Grace, and a stuffed bear and new books tucked inside a Minnie Mouse stocking.  Each of the girls had a chance to talk to Grace, and as we were walking off the gym floor, one of the players thanked me for letting them be a part of our journey. Seems to me like we are the lucky ones!

We got to take our family photo with both Volley for Grace teams!
In addition to the donation from Morrisonville, the Lady Lancers presented Grace with more than $300 from the Serving for Grace fundraisers from throughout the season, and another $300 or so from the bake sale and donations.  I got the chance to thank the crowd and tell them that with their help we would beat INAD someday.

Grace with her family cheering section.
Before the game started, Greg Neisler once again offered a prayer as both teams made a prayer circle around Kyle and Grace. That's been one of the neatest parts of the Grace games for me, and such a testament of faith.

Smiles for Aunt Mikaela and Kayley.
As Kyle made his way to find a spot to shoot some action photos, Grace and I made our way to sit with both our families. Grace snuggled right up on Aunt Mikaela's lap and promptly fell asleep for the remainder of the game, as the rest of us visited throughout the game.

Being the star is hard work, and Grace fell asleep during the game.
The Lady Lancers would win in two games over rival Morrisonville, but the impact both teams continue to make off the court is what makes them so special. A total of around $9,000 was raised for INAD research at the three Volley for Grace games this season, and next year could be even more impressive with the inaugural "A Grace-Filled Tourney," featuring 16 volleyball teams from this area.

Grace posed with the Lincolnwood volleyball team too.
And speaking of special, we have to add one more volleyball team to Team Grace. Just two days after the final Volley for Grace game, I was in Litchfield to cover the monthly school board meeting. Since I was at the high school anyway, Kyle asked if I would take a photo of the volleyball senior players before my meeting. When I walked into the room, the girls said they had something to ask me. The six senior players asked me if they could dedicate their game that night to Grace and to our family. With tears in my eyes, I said yes, and thanked each of them for their sweet gesture. Kyle and Grace even filmed a video to say thanks to the players.

The Litchfield senior volleyball players dedicated their last home game to Grace.
Whether your school colors are red, orange or purple, we are so honored to have so many wonderful young players on Team Grace.


Thursday, October 20, 2016

Lions And Tigers And Zombies, Oh My!

Ever since Grace was diagnosed with INAD, Kyle and I have tried to give her as many "normal" opportunities as we possibly could.  We take her on trips with us, like to the zoo or the Magic House. We do our best to treat her exactly like any other five-year-old girl.  Sometimes it's tough, but it's always worth it.

Mommy is turning Grace into a zombie.
Daddy adds some fake blood.
Several weeks ago, we got some publicity at the paper about the annual Zombie 5K event in Hillsboro, which is a fundraiser for one of our very favorite organizations, the Montgomery County Cancer Association.  Kyle started talking about wanting to enter he and Grace as zombies in the race.  We kind of went back and forth for a little while, as we usually do, but eventually decided it might be kind of fun to try.

Watch out for our zombie photographer!
These are two scary journalists!
Not ones to plan for anything much ahead of time, we waited until the day before to stop by Target while we were in Springfield to get some zombie supplies.  Kyle decided he wanted to be a zombie reporter and that Grace could be his zombie photographer. We picked out some gray face paint, some zombie tattoos and some fake blood.

Watch out!
Someone sure liked being a zombie!
The premise of a zombie 5K is that regular runners sign up to participate as runners and walkers, then others sign up as zombies to chase the runners and try to steal their flags.  

These zombies are ready to run!
On the afternoon of the race, Kyle and I set out to turn Grace into the cutest little zombie we could.  We added some Grace face paint with black circles around her eyes, and her daddy added the fake blood.  I helped some with his make-up, and we were dressed and ready to go.

Waiting to get started with the other zombies.
Grace collected flags along the route.
Of course, we hadn't actually signed up ahead of time, because let's face it, that's just not how we roll.  We prefer to do things at the last minute, but we managed to get all signed up and visit with some of the people who were signed up to run.  One little boy from Grace's preschool class last year came over to say hi and see Grace all dressed up like a zombie, and we even saw Grace's speech therapist with her family and one of Grace's favorite babysitters.

Grace and her daddy are hiding out waiting for runners.
After getting lined up for a group photo with all the zombies, it was time to do some chasing.  I sort of followed along and took photos as Kyle and Grace planned their "attacks."  They headed down the street and a few people we know, stopped by to let Grace pull their flags off.

Runners, watch out!
Better beware!
Once the runners were off, Kyle and Grace set up camp in front of the driveway at our house, which just happens to be on the race route.  They "hid" behind a newspaper and jumped out to scare runners as they went by.  Again, some very sweet people stopped to let Grace collect their flags as they went by, and she had quite a collection toward the end of the route.

Grace LOVED all the attention along the route.
Grace and her daddy had so much fun along the way!
Though we had several people tell us that they couldn't believe we turned sweet Grace into a zombie, we think she really had a good time, and definitely enjoyed all the attention from runners who stopped to talk to her.  

These two little zombies sure made some great memories.
Some days, it would be easier to stay home and be sad about the fact that Grace can't do things other kids can do. But it's always worth it to make that extra effort. And though she may not understand what it means to be a zombie, she definitely understood all the people who stopped to make a fuss over her. We're fortunate to live in a place where the kindness Grace is shown every day by far overshadows the horrors of living with INAD. From preschool to playtime to zombie 5K routes, you will find us sharing as many life experiences as we can with Grace, and we wouldn't have it any other way.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Fun-Filled Fall Field Trip

It was certainly a beautiful day for a trip to the pumpkin patch with Grace's preschool class.  Kyle and I felt very fortunate to have the morning off to take Grace to Rhodes Family Farm in Worden for a fun day with her friends.  We even got to carpool with Grace's classmate and cousin, Isabel, and her mom, Lindsey.

Grace and Izzy loved watching Mary Poppins on the car ride.
We put Grace's favorite movie, Mary Poppins, on the car's DVD player, and enjoyed the nearly hour-long trip visiting.  It was Izzy's weekend to have the class teddy bear, Charlie, so she brought him along for the ride too.

Getting ready to check out the corn maze.
Grace thought it was hilarious when Kyle flicked corn off the cob.
When we arrived at the pumpkin patch, we found half a dozen buses and hundreds of kids and their teachers and families, including several buses from the Litchfield School District. Kyle happened to look up and notice a bus from Triad, and we were delighted to find my cousin, Abby, who teacher pre-K there, on a class trip as well.

We were so excited to see cousin Abby on the field trip.
After we got into the gates, our preschool families split up until it was time for a wagon ride to pick out pumpkins all together.  Kyle and I took Grace on a walk through the corn maze first, and she really liked it when he popped some corn kernels off the cob.  She would just giggle and giggle.

Grace loved when we tossed the bean bags!
Grace and her daddy really wanted to shoot the pumpkin cannon.
We successfully navigated the corn maze, or just retraced our steps back to the beginning, to wander around a little more.  Kyle and I found a cornhole bags game, and Grace just giggled as she watched us toss the beanbags back and forth.  She was especially excited that mommy won the game!  Then Kyle found a wiffle ball toss game, and helped Grace toss some of the balls too.

Being silly with Daddy!
Grace and her daddy fed the goats.
Before it was time to meet up with Grace's class again, we went to feed the baby goats, checked out some pumpkins and watched some kids in Grace's class ride the train.  As we walked to meet back up with the class, Isabel held Grace's hand, and Grace loved seeing her friends from the morning and the afternoon class too.

Holding hands with cousin Izzy.
Grace liked it when Lauren showed her an ear of corn.
We loaded up in two big wagons, and it was fun to see the kids talk about what they liked to do at the farm.  After ten minutes or so, we arrived to an area where there were lots of pumpkins set up in all sizes, and each student got to pick out a pumpkin to take home.  We picked a small pumpkin with mottled colors for Grace, and set it out in front of the house when we got home.

Grace and her daddy loved the wagon ride.
Grace and mommy loved the wagon ride too!
Before loading up the wagons, we took a group photo of the kids in both classes, and after returning to the main farm area, much of the class stayed to have lunch together in the picnic area.  It's a bit hard to feed Grace on picnic tables, so we opted instead to head for home with Izzy and Lindsey.

Class photo at Rhodes Family Farm.

It was such a beautiful day to be outdoors and enjoy some time with Grace and her classmates. We even hope to return for some more fall fun at Rhodes Family Farm someday.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Volley for Grace - Take Two

When we arrived at Lincolnwood High School, and the usual orange and black school colors had been traded for purple and white.

Amid purple decorations, Katelyn and her friend sold Grace-filled baked items.
The second Volley for Grace night this season was held on Monday, Oct. 3, when the Lady Hiltoppers of Hillsboro traveled to Raymond to compete against the Lady Lancers of Lincolnwood.  It was Lincolnwood who actually started the Volley for Grace events two years ago, when Kyle's cousins, Kayley and Kensey Armour, were playing on the junior high team, and the tradition has grown since then.

Special "BEAT INAD" jerseys were a highlight of the game.
The cafeteria was decorated with purple and white signs with information about INAD and photos of our sweet Grace. Kyle's cousin, Katelyn, and her friend were selling purple princess crackle and purple ribbon cookies for donations to INAD. They also graciously agreed to sell A Grace-Filled Journey scarves for us too, and they seem to be a hit with the little girls.

Check presentation from the kindergarten class.
Check presentation from Raymond Grade School.
Check presentation from Lincolnwood Junior High School.
Although Kyle's dad and sister were already inside the gym, it took us awhile to make our way in as we enjoyed visiting with some of Kyle's friends who had come to the game, wearing their purple and white shirts. It was so much fun to catch up with everyone and Grace enjoyed watching all the kids.

A special visit from some special friends.
When we finally stepped inside the gym, the Lady Lancers were clad in special purple jerseys that read "BEAT INAD" on the back. There were also purple balloons in each of the basketball hoops, and the teams had borrowed purple and white game balls from Litchfield for the special event.

Check presentation from Lincolnwood High School
Check presentation from the LJHS volleyball team, including a special photo of Grace with the team.
Check presentation from the Lady Lancer volleyball team.
We found some seats in front near the large fan, and Grace loved the breeze, as well as sitting right next to her cousin, Quincy, and other members of both of our families.

The amazing prayer circle around Kyle and Grace before the game.
As the junior varsity game ended, Athletic Director Josh Stone invited the three of us to the center of the gym. Throughout the entire school district, classes competed in a Change Wars for Grace, and the winning class in each building got to present the check to Grace, which for the students is a highly sought after honor.

Kyle got to share our story with the crowd.
Someone sure likes being the center of attention!
Class by class, the students and their teachers brought a check tied to a purple balloon to Grace and Kyle, including volleyball players from both the junior high and high school teams. A grand total of nearly $5,000 was presented to us that night, and Kyle and I were completely blown away. 

Kyle and Grace with the Hillsboro and Lincolnwood volleyball teams.
Usually, Kyle and I are both able to maintain our composure, but this one seemed to slip away from us. Kyle took the microphone to thank everyone for coming and for their generous contributions.  He got a little misty eyed in talking about our Grace, and we are so grateful for everyone that has adopted us into their family.

Kyle in his valiant attempts at the serving challenge.
They had one final fundraiser that night, called Serving for Grace, that the team does at all the home games. Participants pay to put their name in the bucket, then several are selected with a chance to serve the volleyball and hit a target to win a prize. My favorite was when they called Kyle to  be the last one to serve. He's gotten to serve at the last three fundraisers, and though he has yet to win a prize, he always entertains the crowd. This year, he even served one facing the wrong way. Ironically, it was the only one that went over the net.

Hanging with the Elvidges and cousin Kayley at the game.
Just before they announced the starting line-ups for the team, both teams made a giant prayer circle around Kyle and Grace and Greg Neisler offered a beautiful prayer.  I couldn't keep the tears from streaming down my cheeks a little as a I watched the love and support going up for our beautiful Grace.  It was such a special moment for our family.

Family cheering section.
Smiles for Aunt Mikaela
After the prayer, we settled in to watch the game, cheering for both sides throughout the game. Ultimately, the Lady Hiltoppers would come out with the win in two games, but everyone on the court was a true winner that night for their love for Grace.

You still have one more chance to see the Volley for Grace teams in action on Tuesday evening, Oct. 18, when Lincolnwood hosts the Lady Mohawks of Morrisonville. No matter which team comes out on top that night, I can promise you an inspirational night you will never forget. Come out and Volley for Grace!