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Anna's Story: Finding Joy and Purpose through Tragedy

Written by: Jenny

Social media. It's a funny thing.

I find myself scrolling my feed, 'liking' pictures of people I do not know. Reading blogs and stories about topics I may not have thought to seek out on my own. Connecting with people who I may not have otherwise ever come to know in this lifetime. Feeling joy for strangers. Feeling relief for someone who got good news about their health. Feeling uneasy for others going through the trials of life.

Feeling extreme heartache over a beautiful, local teen girl who's life changed in exactly one second.

Anna Sarol was born on November 4, 2000. Always the most energetic child among her siblings. She loved gymnastics from the earliest age. 

She started club gymnastics at five years old. A natural. Always taking first place. By the time she hit her teen years, she was crushing it on floor, beam and all-around among her age group. She had her sights set on the Olympics and because of her talent, she likely would've been a candidate. A well disciplined gymnast. Dedicated. Working hard at it four days a week, even during the school year for three to four hours a day. 

On August 20, 2015, everything changed.

A freak accident. Anna fell off of the uneven bars and fractured her T10 vertebra. In an instant, her entire life changed. It was the phone call no parent should ever have to receive. It was the diagnosis no person should ever have to face. Paraplegia.

The word Anna's mom uses to describe her daughter is STRONG. She's the one who gives her mother comfort and reminds her to go to bed early. Anna's bedroom is in the garage since they live in a small two-story house. Caring and generous people helped build a small handicapped equipped bedroom with a ramp for accessibility. It's tough to be away from Anna during bedtime -- what if there is a fire? What if there is a burglar? All of those thoughts race through her mind until she falls asleep on the second floor of their home.

Anna's dad recently sent out this note. An update on her progress.

Dear Friends/Family/Support-Group,

I am writing to you to update everyone about Anna's progress to this point. She has been on physical therapy for over a year and so far... no progress of her condition, other than her positive attitude and high spirit.

My wife and I are humbled and grateful for the amount of support you have shown us.

Anna's life has changed after the accident, but it is Anna who changed our family and continues to do so.

She inspires everyone.

I want to share a page from her diary that she wrote when we were in Chicago a month ago (with her permission, I am publishing this part of her diary!):

Dear Diary:

"My Sweet 16". My sixteenth birthday. All I can think of is what gift mom and dad will give me. In the past, I've been hinting (laptop, camera, a DOG!!). For the most part, I always get what I ask -- except for the dog, LOL. This year, they finally gave in for 'Miles', my new companion puppy, a 9-month old Pembrooke Welsh Corgi.

Maybe they felt bad about my accident last year (August 20, 2015) that I can pretty much wish for anything I want. What I wish for more than anything, obviously, is to walk again.

Dad and I have gone back and forth to Chicago hospital several times now to visit my spinal cord doctor. Every time dad asked the doctor, 'Is there a possibility Anna can get feelings in her legs and walk again?', the doctor had the same, grim, sad look and shook his head 'no'. I looked at my dad and saw tears coming out immediately.

I always grab my dad's hand and tell him, 'It's gonna be OK. I will be fine.' I may not be able to walk now, but I'm for sure hopeful that one of these days there will be a miracle for me. That's why for my birthday, I don't want anything. All I want is to give back to those less fortunate kids and bring them tiny hope and a small miracle. It will be the sweetest gift of all.

This precious child has every right to feel sorry for herself... to dwell on what she has lost. But, instead, she has chosen JOY. Has chosen to focus her efforts on OTHERS rather than herself. What an incredible human being.

With some help, Anna has started a charity called 'Grades for Meds'. The mission? To get children to work for good grades and earn money for people who need medical help. Every grade and every dollar makes a big difference. 

She has fed the homeless. She has donated money she received from the Ronald McDonald House to someone else. 'Anna's Angels' distributed winter clothes and coats to the homeless in Kansas City. Anna is lobbying to fight for continuation of gymnastics in the Shawnee Mission and Olathe school districts (there is a chance the programs will be cancelled due to low participation). The very sport she loved. The very sport which has caused her life to change so drastically.

I am blown away by the spirit, kindness and hard work of this young woman.

A sweet soul who is doing so much for others.

My wish is that we can do something for HER. I asked her mother to dream big... tell me what can be done.

There is a way for Anna to walk again. It's through ReWalk. I never knew such a thing existed. How FANTASTIC! But, how expensive. How very, very expensive.

She also dreams of a day that somehow her bedroom could be closer to Anna's so she wouldn't have to be so fearful at night. 

'So many wishes... but I am thankful that we have Anna and she is alive and not psychologically depressed.'

If you'd like to continue to follow Anna's story, progress and mission to help others. Or, if you are able to help in any way, click here.

In the meantime, may we all learn a little something from this brave girl.

Shop Local: La~de~da Holiday Open House December 1st, 6-9pm!

she3: Nutella meets McDonalds, you're washing yourself too much + an awesome story of high school kindness.