When I talked with Faith Graves, an incoming freshman at Valparaiso High School, I noticed right away that she was your regular teenage girl. She was born in Valparaiso and has lived in the small Northwest Indiana town her whole life. She spent her Thomas Jefferson Middle School years taking part in afterschool activities like Dance Club, 4-H, and track, and she has a family she loves, an older brother to look up to, and a best friend she adores.
Faith was also born with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects muscle movement, tone, and motor skills. This condition affects about 1 in 323 children and symptoms can range in severity from hearing loss to physical impairment. But in her life, this has not held Faith back. It is a part of her, not all of her, so she has strived to live a fun life like any young girl her age. One way she did this was she joined the TJMS track team in eighth grade.
“I wanted to be involved in a regular school sport,” Faith said. “I wanted to be around my friends as well.”
Surrounded by those friends and a supportive team, she began to compete in track events. To do so, Faith uses pink crutches, and her determination, to help her cross the finish line.
“It was inspiring for everyone who watched from the sidelines,” Faith’s mom, Jane, said proudly.
But while she knows that using those bright pink crutches to help her finish each heat was inspiring for her community, being on the track team itself shows the world that simply because you have a disability, it does not mean that you are unable to live a happy, healthy, and active life.
“I wanted to be a part of a team, and I knew that this was something I could do,” Faith said.
And as she prepares to go start her high school career this fall, Faith hopes to continue the incredible experience she has had on the track team.
“I want to continue running track when I get to high school, but I also hope to be able to try my hand in other sports and become a manager on different teams,” she said.
Faith is also looking forward to this summer, when she is able to go to Camp Riley, an annual summer camp Faith has attended since she was a child. Camp Riley, which is held by Riley Children’s Hospital’s and funded by the fundraising arm of the hospital, the Riley Children’s Foundation, boasts an impressive number of activities that many children with disabilities who attend the camp would otherwise never have the chance to partake in.
“I’m really looking forward to going again this summer,” Faith said. “I’ll be able to do a lot of things like horseback riding and waterskiing, which I would normally never get to do. Plus, I’m excited to be around other kids like me and be around good friends.”
Faith Graves is a regular teenage girl, in that she is, to say the least, unapologetically herself. She is kind, she is strong, and her drive to not let anything in life hold her back from being who she is and doing what she wants is inspiring.
For more information about Riley Children’s Hospital and how you can support Indiana children, please visit https://www.rileychildrens.org/.