Amy Bullimore, the founder of GRACE, has had her life touched by many people with disabilities. She decided from a young age that she wanted to make an impact in the special needs community.
Growing up, she used to offer encouragement to her younger siblings and a helping hand to the therapist during their various therapy sessions, which led to her dream job of being a pediatric physical therapist when she was only 8 years old. Her siblings not only ignited her passion to work with children with differing abilities, but also led her to find her faith when she was 17 years old. Watching God perform miracles within her family drove her for a deeper desire to have an intimate relationship with God.
During her senior year at Little Miami High School, she also met Stephanie Goodwin. Stephanie became the basketball team manager, and their bond grew instantaneously. In the spring of her senior year, Amy got a group of students together to be escorts for the special education program for their daylight prom. This was an amazing experience and touched the lives of all that were a part of this incredible day. Stephanie was an incredible example of how being a part of a community and an inclusive environment can foster growth and break down barriers in many areas of life.
Amy went to Ohio Northern University to study exercise physiology in hopes of being a Physical Therapist. During her final year of undergraduate, she felt called to make an immediate impact in her community. After years of experiencing a lack of facilities available to children with disabilities to have fun, a lack of places for families affected by disability to be immersed in the community and surrounded with support, as well as a small presence of people with disabilities in the church; she decided that she would start GRACE, a community center for families affected by disability of all types to connect, cherish, and celebrate.
Stephen Kristian was 8 months old when the Bullimore’s first met him at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital. When he left Childrens Hospital 2 weeks after meeting his new family it was his first time out of the hospital since he was born with a genetic disorder, VATER syndrome. Stephen had a multitude of complications and disorders, including bronchial malacia, esophageal atresia, a paralyzed vocal cord, as well as bronchopulmonary dysplasia.
With a long list of medical conditions, came with a long list of machines to help keep him alive. Stephen required surgery every week after his 2nd birthday for 2 years in an attempt to build a functioning esophagus. After a little over a year of fostering him, the Bullimore’s adopted him in March of 2002. He was nonverbal and unable to walk for the first three years of his life.
One day after his 3rd birthday, he began to walk by pushing a wagon with some medical equipment, on the same day he began to talk with complete ease. Stephen has faced several surgeries that have held serious risks of either causing more damage to his body or worse, yet he has always came out on top.
At the age of 20, he is now a healthy strong young man. He is still awaiting a surgery to construct an esophagus, and until that happens he will have a trach and g tube. Stephen is a fighter. The definition of perseverance and strength, but most importantly faith. Faithful that he would live to see another day after each of the 190 surgeries he has had in his life.
Stephen’s faith has pushed him to accomplish great things. After doctors thought he wouldn’t make it to see his 4th birthday, he has achieved many milestones that were not thought possible before including: graduating high school, getting his drivers license, pursuing higher education, as well as working and living independently.
Kyia Grace was 3 months old when she came home to our family. When she was only 12 days old, she was severely beaten by her biological parents. This left her with several fractures to her skull, optic nerve damage to both of her eyes, and she was classified as legally blind at 6 months old. Her brain damage was so severe that she lost the ability to swallow correctly so a g-tube was placed. She suffered from a seizure disorder that left her having approximately 20 seizures a day until the age of 2.
The Bullimores adopted Kyia on February 7th, 2003. As time went on she began to worsen and we were told that she had developed a chiari malformation, which needed immediate surgery. Her odds of survival were only 20%, and finding a surgeon was nearly impossible. God answered our prayers when we met the neurosurgeon that not only successfully completed the operation, but believed in a better life for Kyia.
As Kyia began to progress, she was able to say several words and was becoming more mobile. However, in an attempt to control her seizures, the reactions of her medication induced a severe stroke. She lost the majority of the speech that she had worked so hard for, as well as the ability to crawl. But despite all of her setbacks, with a ton of support and a nurturing family, she is now 18 years old and the happiest young lady who brings joy to the lives of everyone she meets.
Kyia continues to take strides daily and loves to learn new things in school. Kyia uses a wheelchair for mobility, but enjoys using her walker or bike with assistance. She also loves to go to church every Sunday and worship. Kyia is an example of how gracious our God is and the importance of having hope and a child-like faith.
“Faith can move mountains, and our generosity can move the children in our communities that are living with disability” -Amy Bullimore