Several years ago while shopping for a greeting card I stumbled over one that read something like this, “once in a while you meet someone who leaves a footprint on your heart and you are never ever the same.” I have had the privilege of this happening twice in my life; my husband 10 years ago and, in 2013, a little girl name Grace Anna. The one difference is, up until this weekend, I had never actually met Grace Anna but had only knew her through Facebook. Scrolling through Facebook one night I saw a video a friend had posted of this sweet little girl singing the National Anthem, I was captured.
How did this little girl who could only be about 2 years old, certainly no more than 3, know the words to the national anthem so well?
Grace Anna is the daughter of Angie and Jeff Rodgers and they reside in Kentucky. Grace Anna has a rare form of dwarfism called Conradi Hunermann Syndrome and has dealt with such health issues as being born blind due to cataracts, severe kyphosis and scoliosis of the spine. Doctors tried to persuade her parents to abort on five different occasions, but this was not something they would consider. Grace Anna has overcome many obstacles in her now 4 year old life.
Grace Anna began singing at only 16 months, and she loves to sing.
The “Grace Anna Sings” Facebook page, at the time of this writing, has over 600,000 followers. She has changed lives; she has lifted her followers out of their worst days and thousands have posted how much they love this child. It is hard to explain how you can love someone you have never met but Grace Anna has such spirit and personality that I don’t know that it needs to be explained. I often watch her video of “Amazing Grace” before going to bed each night, and recently my hope of meeting this wonder came to fruition.
Grace Anna and her family were traveling to Topeka, Kansas to attend the Military Veteran Project’s 2nd Annual Salute Our Heroes Gala, where she would be singing the National Anthem. Grace Anna’s family are strong supporters of our military and have family members who have served.
The mission of the Military Veterans Project is “to advocate, educate, and honor our military veterans and families through program support.” The program has assisted veterans and service members with medical advocacy, PTSD treatments, suicide prevention and other services. The Military Veteran Project was created by Melissa Jarboe in honor of her late husband, Sgt. Jamie Jarboe. For more information on the project please go to www.militaryveteranproject.org
The guest speaker for the evening was Bobby Henline, a veteran of Desert Storm who re-enlisted after Sept 11th, 2001. While serving in Iraq the Humvee he was in was hit by a roadside bomb; he was the only survivor out of 5 men. Bobby suffered severe burns over 38% of his body, lost his left hand and had over 40 surgeries while being hospitalized for 6 months. Bobby now does motivational speaking and stand-up comedy. The gala included a cocktail hour, dinner, and a silent auction of a wide variety of donated items, which raised approximately $3000 for the project.
Grace Anna, dressed in a beautiful red dress, black jacket, and matching red bow in her hair sang the National Anthem with as much heart and soul as a child can muster. After dinner was served at the gala Grace Anna’s older brother, Isaiah, carried her out into the lobby area. As they walked by I said to Grace Anna, “Hi, Grace Anna, my name is Juanita, can I shake your hand?” She responded, in the sweetest, softest voice, “Hi Juanita.” I thought she would shake my hand but what she did next left me in tears. She did not shake my hand but leaned over, kissed me on the cheek, then took my face in her hands and said “now, you give me a kiss” I gave her a kiss on the cheek.
If you have not had the privilege of watching her videos, reading her web page or seeing her pictures that are posted on Facebook, you must treat yourself. Your heart will be captured.