Wollongong has lost a little angel who changed the lives of many from the moment she was born.
Just one week after her 13th birthday, Gracie Wallis (Amazing Grace to her family) left the world richer for her journey last Thursday night.
After being born with a hypoxic brain injury and cerebral palsy she left an indelible mark on the countless people she touched with her young life. As well as the many who will benefit from her legacy for many years to come.
That follows the GoFundMe launch on Sunday night of an International Women’s Day Scholarship that will be awarded annually in her honour from 2019. It will be presented to a local woman with a disability to achieve a goal of their choice.
Overnight close to $4000 was raised for the scholarship that will be presented each year by her little sister Sophie, 11, who is a talented young entertainer.
A video of Gracie’s 2017 graduation from Para Meadows School with Sophie singing will be played at the funeral at 9am on Wednesday at Hansen and Cole, Kembla Grange.
Those attending are encouraged to wear bright colours and bring their smiles for a happy celebration of a short life that made a huge impact.
Sophie will help read a poem about Gracie at the service with the close family friend who wrote it, Chantelle Jary.
Mother Susan Wallis said an accappella choir will also sing the song Black Bird with the lyrics “take these broken wings and learn to fly”.
Sophie said her favourite memory of Gracie will be feeding her chocolate mousse in the shower. The two girls made a huge mess but the smile on Gracie’s face made Sophie realise it was her favourite thing they did together as well.
The last time Mrs Wallis saw such big smiles was while doing just that last Tuesday.
That came just days after her 13th birthday when she was not well enough to really celebrate. But they gave her a big warm bath, sang to her and made sure she knew how much they loved her.
Mrs Wallis said her favourite thing was kissing Gracie’s cheek and feeling her smile from the movement in her face.
“That was they way she told me that she loved me”.
Gracie’s funeral service on Wednesday will be followed by a gathering at Wests Illawarra. Mrs Wallis requested the room where Bandaged Bear functions were always held and the club made it available free of charge.
As Mrs Wallis was comforted by Gracie’s younger sister Sophie, 11, at the family home on Monday she reflected on how their lives were all the greater for the 13 years she had spent in the world.
“We will miss Gracie more than words will ever say but we are stronger and more resilient from knowing, loving and losing her,” she said.
“We now know the real meaning of unconditional love”.
“Our hearts are broken and always will be. In the words of Olaf from Frozen, which we watched 17 times a day, “some people are worth melting for”. Disabled does not mean lesser. It just means different. Gracie gave more and is worth more than so many people who walk and talk and live a whole life-time.”
“We never saw Gracie as being broken and needing to be fixed. From the moment she was born. She was perfect just the way she was.”
Mrs Wallis said nobody chooses to have a disabled child.
But Gracie was someone with an enormous ability and a gift to make everyone she met a better person.
“You couldn’t help but be impacted by her,” she said.
The scholarship in Gracie’s memory will be for $2000 a year.
The idea followed Mrs Wallis being awarded a Cate Stevenson scholarship four years ago. During her acceptance speech she said “one day we will have a scholarship named after Gracie”.
Then when Kerryn McCann’s daughter presented the scholarship under her mother’s name last year, Mrs Wallis thought it would be a really nice touch if Sophie presented the Gracie Wallis Scholarship every year. “I want to never have her be forgotten”.
Mrs Wallis contacted the IWD Committee some time ago and asked whether a Gracie Wallis Scholarship was something that might be possible.
The initial thought was that the Wallis family would self fund it. But after deciding to throw it open for people in the community to donate via a GoFundMe page they are now confident there will be enough funding for scholarships for the next three or four years.
“Some people like Debra Murphy have committed to a yearly amount,” she said.
Mrs Wallis said the response was further confirmation to her of how someone can make an enormous impact by being loving and genuine.
“It is about acceptance, tolerance and impact. And just leaving the world a better place than when you went into it. That is the Gracie message. That is what she did.”
The impact started just after she was born and needed to be transported to Sydney by helicopter.
Mrs Wallis was left standing by the helipad and watched her leave.
Feeling no parent should have to be experience that she helped Leigh Stewart and University of Wollongong start fundraising for a Professor of Paediatrics.
Mrs Wallis went on to fundraise for many causes over the last decade.
That included rescue helicopter services.
It was her way of trying to pay things forward to help many other families in need.
Which is why they are donating Gracie’s equipment to Ruby McLean who has a rare degenerative disease and has often been hospital the same time as Gracie.
A donation box at the funeral will also raise funds for the Gracie Wallis scholarship.
Asked what it was like to have Gracie as a big sister Sophie said amazing. Because she was Grace by name and Grace by nature.
A Poem by family friend Chantelle Jary
The sun came up and brightly too – But the world has lost its Grace.
Faces smile and laughter heard – But the world has lost its Grace.
A day the same for all it seems – But the world has lost its Grace.
There’s beauty still but now less so – For the world has lost its Grace.
Love abounds and always will – But the world has lost its Grace.
Strength and grit remains within – But the world has lost its Grace
Not empty. Yet still yearning for – A world once more with Grace.
Reflecting on a time before – The world had lost its Grace.
Time will tick and earth will turn – In this world now without Grace.
Music plays and days will break – As we try to live for Grace.
Be bold and bright and sing the songs – As we celebrate such Grace.
Hold our hearts and heal our souls – Remembering our sweet Grace.
Our lives are rich because of her – Her name so true, is Grace.
Her smile great and meant for more – Than the confines of this place.
Weep, rejoice and hold her Mum – For her heart has lost its Grace.
Words so small, actions less – As we miss our Susan’s Grace.
Nothing said and nothing done – Will be worthy of such Grace.
For grit and strength and fierceness so – Is simply just your Grace.
Burn her fire, shine her light – Celebrate your Grace.
Blessed are you for loving her – For she was lifes pure Grace.
Rest in peace beautiful girl. F.Mehdi
You're Such a Amazing Grace - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZKaiHcUJUw Ricky Gamble
Such a special young girl. So glad I had the opportunity to be part of your life. Safe journey little one. Sue
Some lives are not lived for personal glory but rather to give love and teach us how to love. Rest in peace beautiful Gracie. 💕💕 Libby Harkin
Our Para Meadows princess. Sue Buchhorn
Rest in peace beautiful Angel you now have grown your wings.
Fly high god bless you sweetheart resting with my little girl Brittany lee Williams 👼👼💫💫 Two beauty's in heaven xxx Sharren Williams
Amazing Gracie stays in my heart
Your life is short but you alive forever.
Proud of you a strong amazing girl. Stella
RIP little Angel. Craig Hyde
I worked with Gracie numerous times during my time at Parameadows. Her smile would always melt my heart and it was shown how much she was loved when her mum would pick her up everyday with a big kiss and a cuddle. I’m so sorry for the family’s loss, she will forever be in our hearts. Fly high beautiful Gracie xx Shanniah
Bless little Gracie fly high little one. Lauraine Parr
Your infectious smile and laughter during vision support sessions is something I will cherish Gracie. Jacquie McDermid
To Amazing Grace. You are now with all the other beautiful angels. :( Mark Brightwell
Gracie will be so missed and my love and thoughts are with you. Leanne
R.I.P Gracie, beautiful girl. God bless you and your lovely family. Margaret and Chris Purdy and family xx
GRACE: 'An Angel with a cheeky smile'. Your family is beautiful & have a wonderful legacy in your name. Rest in peace. Diane Birch
We will always miss that cheeky smile and contagious giggle at Para Meadows. Natalie Desousa
Run free beautiful Gracie. Rest in peace. "Those we have held in our arms for a little while, we hold in our hearts forever" xx Kellie Wogas
The world is all the better for having such a sweet girl in it and although the world seems alittle darker for having her leave it, she leaves a lifelong imprint in our world while heaven opened its gates for the best angel they will ever know.
My love and thoughts are with you all xxx Livian Jones
We are all on this planet to help each other. You & your Gracie, Susan, have made us all happier people. Paula and Jordan Kuhnemann