One by one, each child strolled across the big stage in the auditorium to the thunderous applause of parents and grandparents, as well as hundreds of people in this small town of Donalsonville, Georgia. These little ones were making their first mark into the world as graduates of Seminole County Kindergarten. Suddenly the jubilant crowd slumped into an eerie silence. Five year old Suzanne Grant had been lifted onto the stage by her mother who steadied her balance, and then turned her loose. Slowly, the little girl who had been born with Spina Bifida and had received physical therapy plus been fitted with braces for this special occasion, pushed one foot forward to take her first step. Slowly, a second step followed, then a third, then a fourth until Suzanne reached the podium where she was given her diploma. She then continued her journey into the waiting arms of her mother on the opposite side of the stage.
At that moment the audience, which had sat frozen to their seats in stone silence, rose to their feet with a roar that could be heard all over town. Twelve years later, this same community gave Suzanne another thunderous applause and standing ovation when she rolled her wheelchair across the stage to receive her high school diploma.
Spina Bifida - - a birth defect that involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord. Sadly, Suzanne has the most severe type called Myelomeningocele. However, Suzanne, with her up-beat attitude, makes a statement that should serve as a ray of hope to others: “I want others to know that despite your disability, you can still enjoy life. I want to say a special thanks to my parents in giving me the opportunity to get out and enjoy life. They are MY inspiration.”
To name a few of the fun-filled things Suzanne has done:
Camp Arrow, a camp for the physically impaired, located near Hahira, Georgia, became her stomping grounds between the ages of 7-14. Swimming, fishing, canoeing, and dancing were just a few of the activities in which Suzanne engaged in.
Camp Dream, located at the Roosevelt Sports Training Complex in Warm Springs Georgia, is an all sports camp which still provides her an opportunity to participate in wheelchair athletics, such as: basketball, tennis, golf, handcycling, handball, and fencing. It was here that Suzanne fell in love with cycling.
In addition to organized camp activities for the physically impaired, Suzanne and her family have taken many road trips to fun filled sites like Disney World, Daytona Beach, Dollywood, and The Grand Ole Opera. Culture enrichment places could also be listed in their travel journal throughout the South.
As much as Suzanne involved herself in various fun-filled activities, her education has always been her top priority. On May 12th, 2011, the little girl who had “caused a whole community to sit frozen in their seats when she strode across stage to receive her kindergarten diploma,” received her college degree in Business Office Technology from Bainbridge College, Bainbridge, Georgia.
“I can hear the roar of the crowd.”
“Hats off to you, Suzanne, and your zeal for life.”