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Amazing Grace

By: Justin Williams
By: Justin Williams

An amazing story about an amazing girl's first year of school, and a very special graduation celebration.

After being diagnosed with a rare disease, Grace Kenitz's survival became her family's primary concern. Attending school wasn't even on the list. But Saturday night, the Chavez Elementary School community found themselves basking in the benefits of "Amazing Grace."

Lucky are those who've been touched by recent Kindergarten-grad Grace Kenitz.

The accomplishment is enhanced by the fact that this little five-year-old suffers from a rare form of Mitochondrial Disorder which has only been diagnosed in five other children.

Three years ago, she was on life-support, but today Grace is the only one of those five who's lived beyond the age of two. Still, some doctors told her mother to expect the worst.

Shannon Kenitz explains, "I can accept that that's what they think, but I can't accept that, as a mom, that my child can't get better and that's the one thing that I've learned is that, even when things look the bleakest, that you have to have, find some way in your heart to have a sense of hope."

Grace's teacher says she wasn't certain how she would teach Grace, and her mother says she wasn't sure other students would accept Grace, but both explain everyone has benefited from the experience.
Jamie Hansen says, "It's just made me think about teaching and think about my life and just appreciate it and always give my best and, even when it's hard, know that if Grace can make it through all the things hat she has that I can do that, too."

Shannon continues, "I can never repay the parents and the children for what they gave to our family, despite what may happen to Grace in the future. I mean, she's still listed as having a terminal illness, but this is a memory that we will be able to have with us no matter what happens in our life in the future."

Shannon says the girl's future is bright, crediting the girl's hyperbaric treatments with helping her brain move much closer to normal functioning.

Meanwhile, a Madison-based clinic, featuring the sometimes controversial hyperbaric treatments, is scheduled to open in July, and will reportedly be named after Grace.


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